Agreement signed on funding for schools sector pay

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In December 2000, the Italian government and teachers' trade unions signed an agreement on the funds to be allocated to pay increases and to the reform of the schools sector, thus ending a long-running dispute over the implementation of the sector's current national collective agreement. The resources allocated should allow a gross average pay increase for teachers of about ITL 300,000 per month from January 2001.

An agreement on the funds to be allocated to pay increases and to the reform of the schools sector was signed by the government and the teachers' trade unions affiliated to the Cgil, Cisl and Uil confederations on 15 December 2000. The deal fulfils the majority of the requests put forward by the unions over the past four months in a long-running dispute over the resources to be allocated for teachers' pay and training and the implementation of the 1998-2002 national sectoral collective agreement for the schools sector (IT9903337F). The agreement has also consolidated the trend of increasing Italian education expenditure in line with GDP performance.

It has been agreed to allocate for teachers' pay increases extra resources totalling ITL 850 billion in 2001, ITL 1,250 billion in 2002 and ITL 1,450 billion in 2003, in addition to the funding previously agreed. The overall allocations for the schools sector will thus amount to ITL 3,760 billion in 2001, ITL 4,160 billion in 2002 and ITL 4,360 billion in 2003. This means that teachers will receive a gross pay increase of about ITL 300,000 per month from January 2001.

The government and the trade unions decided that, during the term of the 1998-2002 collective agreement for the schools sector, 1% of the total paybill will be allocated for teachers' continuing training. The resources will be collected in a fund managed by schools. Furthermore, it has been decided to allocate ITL 1,240 billion to teachers' training. This sum will come from the European structural funds which support innovation projects promoted by schools located in southern Italy. The government has also committed itself to allocating to teachers' training the funds received from the sale of permits to operate new UMTS mobile telecommunications systems.

The government has stated that it will continue with the school reform process in collaboration with the teachers' trade unions, guaranteeing that the implementation of these reforms will not reduce employment. Moreover, the government has decided to: improve school buildings; pursue a policy of school integration; increase the school-leaving age (IT9812334F); and continue the fight to reduce the secondary school drop-out rates which are found in both southern and northern Italy.

The unions and the government have also agreed to increase the economic resources to be allocated to decentralised bargaining, with the aim of recognising and enhancing the skills of schools personnel, and of attaining average EU pay levels (including for school managers).

Furthermore, teachers will not have to pay taxes on books and technological equipment used for training and professional updating. The government has also decided to extend cafeteria services and, in cases there is no school cafeteria, restaurant coupons to all teachers involved in afternoon school activities.

Autonomous trade unions in the education sector have not approved the December 2000 agreement. They claim that the resources allocated to teachers' pay increases are still insufficient, because pay rates have not been directly aligned to average EU levels.

Shortly after the conclusion of the agreement, elections were held for the Rsu workplace employee representative bodies in the schools sector, while autonomous trade unions called a strike on 18 December in protest against the accord. The two events provided important indicators of the level of satisfaction among teachers with the new agreement. The positions of the confederal trade unions which signed the deal were given support by teachers in both cases. The strike called by the autonomous unions was a failure, with only 3.4% of staff participating, according to data supplied by the Ministry of Education. Furthermore, in the Rsu elections the confederal unions appear to have obtained at least 70% of the vote, with support for autonomous unions, which obtained 37.1% of the vote at the last elections in 1996, falling significantly.

Despite the agreement, the dispute in the schools sector (IT0010163N) is not yet over. While the social partners have decided on the amount of resources to be allocated to teachers' pay increases, they will have to meet again in January 2001 to decide how to distribute these resources. This issue has divided the confederal trade unions in the past, with Cgil wanting to distribute the resources in line with teachers' skills and Cisl and Uil wanting to distribute them equally among all workers, in order to align teachers' pay to EU averages. However, the confederal unions would still like to put forward a single proposal on the distribution of resources. In the words of Sergio Cofferati, the Cgil general secretary: "we must open negotiations with Aran [the public sector bargaining agency] with a united proposal."

The Confindustria employers' confederation has voiced strong criticism of the pay increases agreed for teachers. Guidalberto Guidi, the organisation's vice-president responsible for industrial relations, said that the funds allocated by the government were "electoral funds". Mr Guidi expressed concern about the impact on inflation of the pay increases for teachers and other public sector groups (IT0012169N). He stated that the teachers' agreement does not respect the 1993 national incomes policy agreement (IT9803223F), which provides for nationally-agreed pay increases to be in line with inflation, and instead allocates resources above this level.

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