Unions and employers agree on application of EU working time Directive

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The Confindustria employers' organisation and the trade union confederations signed an agreement on the application in Italy of the EU working time Directive on 12 November 1997.

An agreement signed by the Confindustria employers' confederation and the Cgil, Cisl and Uil trade union confederations on 12 November 1997 provides for the recognition of the principles of the 1993 EU Directive on certain aspects of the organisation of working time (93/104/EC) in national sectoral collective agreements and in Italian law. The Ministry of Labour will transform this agreement into a bill proposal, which the Government will present to Parliament and which will update the current law on working hours, which dates back to 1923.

The new agreement provides for a 40-hour working week, but gives the social partners the right to conclude collective agreements on a working week of less than 40 hours. The partners can also provide that weekly hours may average 40 over a reference period of up to one year. The agreement also provides for the following:

  • all workers will have the right - to be specified in their contract - to a break after six hours of continuous work, and the right to 11 hours of continued rest every 24 hours;
  • a rest period of at least 24 consecutive hours will be obligatory every seven days, which by law will have to include a Sunday;
  • the use of overtime must be limited to maxima of 80 hours every three months and 250 hours a year;
  • every worker will have the right to four weeks' paid holiday a year; and
  • the regulation of shiftwork at night.

The conclusion of this agreement has renewed the controversy between Confindustria, trade unions and the Government over the latter's proposals to reduce working hours to 35 hours a week by law from the year 2001 (IT9710133N. Confindustria and the unions are both opposed to this proposal (IT9711216F).

Confindustria has declared that, following the 12 November agreement, "the bargaining process at national level on working hours (can be considered as being) over" (quoted in Il Sole 24 Ore of 14 November 1997). Natale Forlani, the confederal secretary of Cisl, has announced that "if the agreement is modified by the law on the 35-hour week, the agreement itself will fail." By contrast, the Minister of Labour, Tiziano Treu, stated that the agreement is a good sign for the future, and that the issue of the 35-hour week can be met with a positive attitude in trade union circles, given that the process for achieving it is still to be decided, with the help of the social partners.

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