Trade unions and Confindustria resume dialogue

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On 26 February 2003, the Confindustria employers' confederation and the Italy's three main trade union confederations (Cgil, Cisl and Uil) launched a dialogue aimed at tackling the problems facing Italian industry - the first such bilateral negotiations for 10 years. Dialogue will continue at four 'negotiating tables' dealing with infrastructures and energy, research and innovation, training and development of the South.

A decade has passed since the Confindustria employers' confederation and the trade union confederations last negotiated without the presence of representatives of the government. However, this dialogue resumed on 26 February 2003. A few days before, Savino Pezzotta, the general secretary of the Italian Confederation of Workers' Unions (Confederazione Generale Sindacati Lavoratori, Cisl), had sent a letter to Antonio D'Amato, president of Confindustria, asking for negotiations on the situation of the Italian productive system.

The meeting on 26 February brought together the general secretaries of the three main union confederations - Guglielmo Epifani of the General Confederation of Italian Labour (Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro, Cgil), Mr Pezzotta of Cisl and Luigi Angeletti of the Union of Italian Workers (Unione Italiana del Lavoro, Uil) - and the leadership of Confindustria - Antonio D'Amato, the president, Guidalberto Guidi, the industrial relations director, and Stefano Parisi, the general director. The meeting allowed the partners to express a common wish to deal with the problems afflicting Italian industry.

The aim of the meeting was to draw up a common document proposing to the government actions to deal with the problems of industry and Italy's economic stagnation, in view of the government's forthcoming 'economic and financial planning document' (documento di programmazione economica e finanziaria, Dpef), which will serve as the basis for its economic policy in 2003. The social partners decided to set up four 'negotiating tables' to address: infrastructures and energy; research and innovation; training; and development of the South. The positions of the social partners on these issues are as follows:

  • according to Cisl, the government and the social partners should monitor the strategies of financial and industrial groups. Incentives for the purchase of major consumer durables, such as cars, are necessary in order to relaunch domestic demand. Support is also needed for research, innovation and training. The 'Pact for Italy' (Patto per l'Italia) - a national agreement on the labour market, the tax system and the South of Italy signed in July 2002 by the government and the main social partners except Cgil (IT0207104F) - must be fully implemented in the South, thanks also to the use of EU funds. Local development should be relaunched through assisted area agreements (IT9803155N) and territorial employment pacts (IT9704203F);
  • Cgil believes that innovation and research should be a priority for trade unions and companies. It proposes a tax on major property holdings to obtain the resources to be allocated to research. Under-capitalisation of companies should be addressed through changes to banks' credit policies;
  • economic democracy, a concern shared by all three union confederations, is the key proposal which will be supported by Uil at the bargaining table; and
  • Confindustria proposes further liberalisation and privatisation of national and local monopolies, a major reduction of tax burden on companies, and additional investments in research, innovation and training.

The social partners' technical meetings started on 3 March 2003.

All the partners are very satisfied with the resumption of dialogue. Mr Pezzotta, the author of the meeting, managed to play a mediating role between the partners' different positions, with those of Confindustria and Cgil being particularly divergent. Mr Pezzotta invited the participants to overcome divisions and address the current economic situation together through a form of 'Pact for competitiveness'. For Cisl, achieving results will depend, above all, upon 'everybody's good will'.

Mr D'Amato of Confindustria urged the recovery of a 'climate of collaboration' because 'investments are made in a climate of widespread trust'. Mr Epifani of Cgil pointed out again the divisions between the partners but also stressed the 'importance of trying to work on some issues which can help to overcome the current difficult relationship between workers and companies'. Mr Angeletti of Uil underlined that 'the dialogue resumed is an important opportunity to identify common interests and converging objectives for the development of the country.'

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