First regional pensions fund established

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An agreement for Italy's first regional occupational pensions fund was signed in March 1997 by the Veneto local organisations of Confindustria, the main employers' organisation, and of the CISL trade union confederation. The initiative has met with hostility from CGIL and uncertainty from UIL, the other two main union confederations.

The agreement establishing a regional pension fund reached in Veneto on 27 March 1997 has met with much attention and controversy. The accord, signed by the local industrial associations of Confindustria and CISL, is aimed at "setting up a complementary pension fund with defined contributions and with individual capitalisation, in order to pay out pensions complementary to those of the obligatory public system", as allowed by the present legislation. The fund should be "regional and of a multisectoral nature", and the entry rates of contribution should be similar to those "defined for each productive sector at national level". The agreement commits the signatory parties to act so as to "allow the participation in the funds of their associates and members", taking as a basis the statute of an existing regional "solidarity" fund (Solidarietà Veneto, which has around 6,000 members).

The initiative has supporters and critics on both the trade unions' and employers' sides. The national Confindustria organisation is reported to be "unenthusiastic" and believes that pension funds should be established at national and company level. CGIL and UIL share this opinion, though UIL is more open to possibilities. The "no" from CGIL was announced by is secretary general, Sergio Cofferati, who is reported to have defined the agreement as a "mistake" (in Il Mattino di Padova on 23 April). Supplementary pensions, he stated, must be based "on the national funds set up by collective bargaining, the only ones capable of providing guarantees to all workers". Conversely, local funds could not be "supported by a bargaining process which does not at exist at regional level".

Luciano de Gaspari, general secretary of CGIL's Veneto organisation, was a little more flexible, declaring himself in agreement with Mr Cofferati, but at the same time reported in the national press to have acknowledged that a high level of employment in small and very small firms is an important phenomenon in the region "and this type of worker is not represented in the national integrative funds". The opinion of the secretary of the UIL in Veneto, Rino Zulian, is that a breakdown in trade union unity must be avoided at all costs, and that it would be better to sit around a table to discuss things together. Mr Zulian believes that pension funds can also be created with a regional dimension, "in those sectors that lack a national contract", such as goldsmiths and leather working.

CISL in Veneto denies that its initiative is in opposition to the national initiative on the subject (IT9705205F). According to its general secretary,Giorgio Santini, "There is no conflict with the national funds ... I hope that the CGIL will reconsider its position and thus participate". For Mr Santini, the specific nature of a region characterised by a strong presence of small firms - which not covered by collective bargaining on pensions funds - justifies this choice. The new agreement's text underlines that in Veneto "the system of SMEs is the protagonist of a territorial growth conditioned by new and differing challenges, that see firms and workers occupied in sustaining them with processes and instruments that are representative of the real regional situation".

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