Confindustria outlines new approach

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In late May 2004 , Luca Cordero di Montezemolo was elected as president of Confindustria, Italy's main employers' organisation. In his inaugural speech, Mr Montezemolo called for a relaunch of social dialogue and consultation and criticised the government. The change of approach was welcomed by the trade unions.

On 27 May 2004, 98.5% of the members of the general assembly of Confindustria, Italy's main employers' organisation, elected Luca Cordero di Montezemolo as the organisation's new president (IT0405204F). Mr Montezemolo had been designated for the post after the previous president, Antonio D’Amato, stood down (IT0404101N).

In his inaugural speech, Mr Montezemolo voiced many criticisms of the policies of the current centre-right government, taking a different position from that of his predecessor. He underlined the importance of regaining Italy's confidence and fighting against the logic of industrial decline. Global competition should be faced by ensuring the observance of international regulations and by relaunching the competitiveness of Italian products, on the basis of quality, innovation, enhanced research and stressing the creativity of Italian entrepreneurs, he stated. Spending on research should increase by 1% of GDP and investment in research should be tax exempt. The training system should acquire greater importance within this framework, with attention paid to continuing training as well as education. Mr Montezemolo wants a reform of the Italian education system based on a 'project that provides for progressive investment in education and should involve the social partners, the main actors in the sector, the institutions and above all the policy-makers'.

Italian businesses, said Mr Montezemolo, should sell abroad not only their products but also the entire Italian production system as a guarantee of quality, by organising consortiums of brands, with quality certification. The Italian production system must be further developed by fostering the growth of small and medium-sized enterprises and encouraging them to group themselves into networks, and by investing in trademarks. This process would be facilitated by modern infrastructure, low-cost energy, an efficient tax system that is 'allied with companies', and the streamlining of public administration. Businesses should grow and their management should become more transparent, with ownership functions completely separated from management and the application of an efficient systems of controls.

The South of Italy is another important item on the social and political agenda proposed by Mr Montezemolo, who believes that three main measures are required - improved infrastructure, regeneration of urban sites and efficient public administration. Furthermore, tax incentives in favour of the southern regions should be reformed in order to make them more effective.

With regard to the European Union, according to Mr Montezemolo, employers should renounce 'national selfishness' and also seek an end to EU bureaucracy. The EU constitution (EU0308204F) should be signed as soon as possible, and the erosion of national borders and of linguistic barriers will stimulate the economy.

The main aims of Mr. Montezemolo's programme include a relaunch of concertation involving the social partners: 'dialogue among the social partners will be enthusiastically restored', with the aim of the partners drawing up a joint 'project for the country' that will allow Italians to view the future with confidence. The Confindustria president acknowledged the fundamental importance of the national tripartite agreement of 23 July 1993 on incomes policy and collective bargaining structure (IT9709212F) and calls for a revival of the spirit of 'mutual trust' that characterised this agreement. Issues that should now be dealt with in this spirit include the future structure of the collective bargaining system, the forms of employee participation, the labour market, the system of 'social shock absorbers' and social security.

Mr Montezemolo underlined the importance of putting an end to 'misunderstandings and conflicts', not only among the social partners but also at institutional level.

The Confindustria president's inaugural speech was welcomed by the trade unions, which were very pleased by the emphasis placed on social concertation as a means of solving the economic problems of the country. Guglielmo Epifani, the general secretary of the General Confederation of Italian Workers (Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro, Cgil), stated after Mr Montezemolo's speech, that all the conditions are in place to 'resume dialogue very rapidly'.

Mr Montezemolo has also been appointed as president of Fiat group, following the death in May of Umberto Agnelli.

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