New pact for employment and growth signed in Milan

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In May 2002, an agreement to foster employment was signed in Milan by the municipal authorities, trade unions and employers' organisations. This 'pact for employment and growth' follows an 'employment pact' signed in February 2000, which caused a split in the union ranks, as Cgil refused to sign it. The new pact has been signed by all the three main union confederations, including Cgil, and sets up a comprehensive framework for social concertation at local level.

An agreement to foster employment - the 'pact for employment and development' (Patto per l'occupazione e lo sviluppo) - was signed on 2 May 2002 by the Milan municipal authorities, trade unions and employers' organisations.

The new agreement comes some two years after an earlier 'employment pact' (Patto per il lavoro) signed in February 2000, which caused a split in the union ranks, when the General Confederation of Italian Workers (Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro, Cgil), which had been severely critical of the contents of the agreement, refused to sign it (IT9908251F and IT0003264N). The dispute continued during the period of the pact's application, and it focused both on the appropriateness of measures applicable only to certain disadvantaged categories of job-seekers - which according to Cgil would introduce forms of discrimination among workers - and on the actual effectiveness of the instruments devised to support employment. The signatories of the February 2000 pact have, however, made a positive assessment of the results achieved, especially regarding the innovations made to the types of employment relationship that can be utilised within the pact's framework and the support given to weak segments of the labour force (IT0103278F).

The new agreement has been endorsed by all the main trade union organisations, including Cgil. It has been signed by the municipal administration, the Chamber of Commerce (Camera di Commercio), 10 employers' associations - including Assolombarda (the provincial employers' association affiliated to the Confindustria confederation), the Association of Small and Medium Firms of the province of Milan (Api Milano), the Union of Commerce, Tourism and Services (Unione del commercio, del turismo e dei servizi- the local structure of the Confcommercio confederation) and associations representing artisanal firms and cooperatives - and the three trade union confederations - Cgil, the Italian Confederation of Workers' Unions (Confederazione Italiana Sindacati Lavoratori, Cisl) and the Union of Italian Workers (Unione Italiana del Lavoro, Uil).

The Milan pact for employment and growth

The Milan pact for employment and growth is a framework agreement which lays down a series of goals and instruments to be implemented subsequently in more specific agreements. It is experimental in nature and is valid for two years.

The pact recognises the importance of local actors in the definition of active labour policies and for employment creation, in the light of both recent changes to the Italian Constitution which give significant powers to local authorities on these matters, and the European employment strategy, which emphasises the importance of local development.

The main objectives set by the pact are the following:

  • support for innovative sectors, research, the 'advanced tertiary' sector, commerce, tourism and services, as well as existing production activities, also with a view to the Europe-wide role that Milan may assume within the framework of the single currency system;
  • improved responses to the new needs of citizens in terms of environment, transport and health services, including homecare;
  • raising the employment rate to European average levels and combating long-term unemployment, with particular reference to weaker categories of worker (workers aged over 40 expelled from the labour market, unemployed immigrants etc);
  • supporting the participation in active life of persons at risk of social exclusion;
  • the regularisation of irregular work (the so-called 'emergence of clandestine work');
  • the organisation of widespread continuing training schemes to foster the adaptability of firms and workers, also involving joint bodies; and
  • the devising by the municipality of Milan of an action programme to foster economic and employment growth and the quality of work (including by means of appropriate policies on public contract procurement), and to increase the city's attractiveness with respect to the location of new economic activities.

The means envisaged by the Pact to achieve these general objectives consist substantially of tripartite negotiations set up to devise measures with specific regard to:

  • identifying critical areas of the city in order to draw up a project for economic and productive growth, employment creation, and increased 'liveability', including by recovering 'brownfield' sites and 'degraded' areas. Meetings on this theme will usually be held every six months on the initiative of the Milan city council;
  • youth employment and school and training systems, to support and promote traineeships and schemes involving a combination of school and work, and to reduce educational drop-out rates;
  • female employment, defining measures to increase participation rates and the quality of female work, and to remove the obstacles hampering achievement of those objectives;
  • training and counselling, by means of periodic meetings with the Milan provincial administration for the purpose of establishing the priorities to be pursued;
  • job placement services, developing jointly with the Milan provincial administration a network of services which integrates the public and private systems, starting with the 'Single Job Centre' (Sportello Unico) already set up by the municipality of Milan, and focusing in particular on weak segments of the labour force; and
  • 'city times' (ie the opening hours of shops, offices, etc), to support reconciliation between work and family life, and to improve the organisation of services and the 'liveability' of the city.

Finally, the pact envisages the creation of a municipal observatory on economic and productive activities and on local employment, also using instruments already available, like various joint bodies or the Chamber of Commerce's services and databases.

Comments by the parties

The unions have declared themselves satisfied with the agreement. Antonio Panzeri, Cgil's secretary for Milan, has stressed the difference between this agreement and the February 2000 pact, which his organisation refused to sign. According to Mr Panzeri, in fact, the new agreement ushers in a new phase of social relationships in Milan, because 'it enables the issues of work and employment to be combined with the social dimension', focusing attention on the rights of individuals and on the quality of employment, of the production system, of company performance and, above all, of training.

For Cisl's Milan secretary, Maria Grazia Fabrizio, of particular importance is the role given to the social partners and to concertation, especially at a time when that role has been called into question at the national level (IT0201277F). From this point of view, the unions see the Milan agreement as a positive example of collaboration between the social partners, also at the national level.

According to the mayor of Milan, Gabriele Albertini, the aim of the agreement is to 'enlarge the labour market with new instruments and training courses and with the support of everyone'. The municipality of Milan intends to raise the employment rate from its present 60% to 70% by means of the agreement.

Commentary

The new Milan pact lays the basis for wide-reaching concertation on matters of great importance for the local economy, for the labour market (training, employability and equal opportunities), and for the life of the city in general. The inclusion among matters for discussion of issues like the recovery of brownfield sites and reorganisation of 'city times' requires the social partners to pursue a form of representation that goes beyond the traditional boundaries of the world of work and approaches the general representation of citizens. Although this is not a new type of representation for the social partners, and in particular for the unions, it requires a change of perspective, also in the concrete management of negotiation and discussion. In short, the social partners are called upon to set value on 'virtuous' and 'positive-sum equilibria' with respect to distributive objectives, within the framework of genuine local-level concertation.

Indeed, the objectives set by the Milan pact for employment and growth seem to be targeted mainly on improving qualitative aspects of both the labour market and life in the metropolitan area. The regularisation of irregular work, support for employability (that is, raising skills levels by means of continuing training schemes), promotion of equal opportunities and reconciling personal life and work are all examples of this endeavour. In an area like Milan, which is particularly dynamic and with high levels of employment and low rates of unemployment, this 'qualitative' approach seems especially appropriate, beyond any legitimate concerns of a 'quantitative' nature. (Roberto Pedersini, Fondazione Regionale Pietro Seveso)

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