Parliament approves law on overtime

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In November 1998, the Italian parliament enacted a government decree-law on restricting the use of overtime working in the industry sector.

On 26 November 1998, Parliament approved a new decree-law on overtime work, which applies exclusively to the industrial sector and updates law no. 692 of 1923. A complex political and legislative situation made the decree-law's enactment necessary as part of the Italian government's move towards full implementation of the 1993 EU Council Directive on certain aspects of the organisation of working time (93/104/EC) (IT9811238F).

The most important aspect of the new decree-law is that, where weekly working time in a company exceeds 45 hours (the statutory norm is 40 hours), the executive board of the company must inform within 24 hours the relevant local office of the Ministry of Labour (Direzione Provinciale del Lavoro del Territorio). This obligation aims to discourage the use of overtime work. The law also introduces upper limits for overtime of 80 hours per three-month period and of 250 hours per year - these apply only where there is no specific regulation of overtime in the relevant national sectoral collective agreement signed by the most representative organisations.

The 80-hour quarterly limit is not proportional to the 250-hour annual limit, and was introduced to allow for greater flexibility. The decree also provides that company-level bargaining cannot provide for an exemption from the limits laid down the decree, thereby introducing a degree of rigidity and of limitation on the bargaining freedom of the social partners.

In the absence of collectively agreed regulations on the subject, the law considers overtime working to be voluntary: the company has to consult the worker and cannot oblige him or her to work overtime.

Companies may have recourse to overtime work only in the following cases:

  • for particular technical production needs;
  • cases of force majeure, danger or damage;
  • trade fairs or shows directly linked to the production activity; and
  • in all situations which may be provided for by the relevant national collective agreement.

In the first two cases, management is obliged to inform the company's union representatives within 24 hours of the beginning of overtime work. If there are no such representatives within the company, the relevant local sectoral unions of the most representative confederations at national level must be informed. If the company does not follow this procedure, the law provides for a fine of between ITL 100,000 and ITL 300,000 for each worker that works overtime.

This law does not solve all the problems and the political difficulties linked to the debate on the decree:

  • the relationship between dialogue/concertation and legislation. In November 1997, the Italian social partners drew up a joint opinion on the criteria for transposing the EU working time Directive (IT9711140N). The new decree-law does not reflect all these criteria, and the social partners have thus protested strongly at what they consider government interference on a subject which concerns directly the relations between the partners themselves. The Minister of Labour,Antonio Bassolino, has said that the relationship between law and the industrial relations system is a problem which needs to be tackled;
  • the need for a unified system of rules for the different sectors and especially between the industry and service sectors. According to the social partners, the present differences no longer seem justified;
  • shifting attention from constraints to opportunities. According to the social partners, in order to discourage the use of overtime work it is necessary to increase its cost for companies, as agreed by the employers' associations in the 1997 joint opinion; and
  • transposition of the EU Directive. The social partners believe that there is still a need to transpose the working time Directive fully into Italian legislation.
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