Draft agreement reached for Wind telecom workers

After six months of bargaining, the social partners at Wind – Italy’s third largest company in the fixed and mobile telephony sector – reached consensus on the renewal of the company agreement in November 2008. The agreement introduces some interesting elements regarding women’s work–life balance needs and the stabilisation of temporary workers. All of the signatory parties have expressed their satisfaction with the draft agreement.

On 6 November 2008, a deal was reached on the renewal of the company-level collective agreement for the Wind telecommunications company – the third largest company operating in Italy’s fixed and mobile telephony sector. The company has about 7,500 employees and is owned by Weather Investments (see also the European Restructuring Monitor (ERM) factsheet).

The draft agreement drawn up by the social partner representatives will be submitted for a workforce ballot. If approved, the pay part of the agreement will be valid for four years, as foreseen by the Agreement of 23 July 1993.

The company’s employees include customer service workers at Wind’s five main call centres in Milan, Ivrea, Rome, Naples and Palermo, along with staff at its two principal centres in Milan and Rome, and the company’s telephone network technicians, the so-called ‘field operations’ workers.

Main signatories of agreement

The deal was reached between the national secretariats of the Communication Workers’ Union (Sindacato Lavoratori Comunicazione, Slc-Cgil) affiliated to the General Confederation of Italian Workers (Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro, Cgil), the Federation of Entertainment, Information and Telecommunications Workers (Federazione Informazione Spettacolo e Telecomunicazioni, Fistel-Cisl) affiliated to the Italian Confederation of Workers’ Trade Unions (Confederazione Italiana Sindacati Lavoratori, Cisl), and the Italian Communications Workers’ Union (Unione Italiana Lavoratori della Comunicazione, Uilcom-Uil) affiliated to the Union of Italian Workers (Unione Italiana del Lavoro, Uil), in collaboration with the national coordination body of the unitary workplace union structure (rappresentanza sindacale unitaria, RSU) and the representatives of Wind.

Tensions escalate at Wind

The deal follows two rather turbulent years at Wind. In 2007, tensions escalated when some 275 workers at the Milan call centre protested against an industrial plan that envisaged their outsourcing to the Omnia Service Centre Srl, a move which was approved at the end of January 2008. Subsequently, in 2008, the workers engaged in further strike action to highlight the need to renew the supplementary agreement, the main contents of which are described below.

Contents of agreement

Stabilisation scheme

The new draft agreement stipulates that, by January 2011, in accordance with the stabilisation scheme (piano di stabilizzazione) introduced first at regional and then at national level, the company will undertake to hire 90 call centre workers on open-ended employment contracts. In this respect, it will give priority to those on fixed-term contracts and former temporary agency workers fulfilling certain requirements: for example, they must be working for the company since at least December 2007 and must have had their contract renewed on at least two occasions. The criteria adopted for the stabilisation scheme will also take into consideration other social hardships of the workers concerned.

Upgrading of workers’ status

Another initiative provided for by the draft agreement concerns the training and professional status of workers. Among the actions foreseen is the upgrading of 460 workers from the fifth to the sixth level; some 233 of these workers have already been upgraded, and the process will be formalised over the next three years in accordance with agreed precedence criteria – such as the length of service at the fifth level and educational qualifications. Most call centre workers, for instance, are fifth level workers. There are seven professional levels altogether and, after the seventh level, workers are included in the category of professional and managerial staff.

Flexible working time measures

In terms of the organisation of work, the draft agreement introduces innovative flexible working time measures seeking to ‘improve the quality of life of workers’.

Following a pilot scheme in Naples, the Wind call centre workers will not be required to spend more than 65% of their daily working hours online. Clocking-off time will be moved forward by two hours to 22.00 rather than 24.00, thus facilitating ‘reconciliation with family life’. Similarly, it has been decided to grant Sunday as a day of rest for those working at the mobile customer centre who are engaged in front-line activities; moreover, those working at the online customer centre will be entitled to rotating Sunday rest days at two of the three sites.

The draft agreement also stipulates that shift schedules and Sunday rest days must be announced four months in advance.

Measures targeting women and parents

The Wind workforce consists of a high proportion of women (48%), the majority of whom are employed at the company’s call centres. In recognition of the strong female presence, the agreement grants working mothers facilitated shifts between the hours of 08.00 and 18.00 up until their child’s second birthday. The same right to ‘parental shifts’ is extended to separated, divorced or widowed parents with children in particular situations up until their ninth birthday.

In general, the use of time off is adjusted to childcare needs. For example, from March 2009 onwards, working mothers or fathers will have the right to eight additional hours of time off to help their child settle in at a crèche – a provision which will be granted up until the child’s third birthday. Moreover, the time off granted to workers for medical check-ups can also be used for children requiring medical attention up to eight years of age.

Pay elements

Finally, the pay part of the agreement increases meal vouchers from €5 to €7 and agrees to reimburse advances paid by workers more easily and rapidly than before. Furthermore, ‘from January 2009, the increments paid for stand-by and night work for all employees of fifth, sixth and seventh level are to be increased by 20%, as well as the increments for activities performed on stand-by and during night shifts’. In addition, the performance-related bonus will be increased to €2,550 in 2011 for fifth-level workers.

Reactions to agreement

All of the agreement’s signatory parties have expressed their satisfaction with the draft agreement. The National Secretary of Slc-Cgil, Alessandro Genovesi, declared that the ‘draft agreement represents attainment of certain important objectives at the basis of the platform and mobilisation of last September’; he added that, measures such as the stabilisation initiative, for example, have sought to respond to the problem of precariousness in the company. The company agrees with the comments expressed by the trade unions.

Commentary

For industrial relations experts, the draft agreement for Wind is not necessarily as innovative or favourable to workers as it is being portrayed. Nevertheless, it should be borne in mind that in the telecommunications sector, and particularly in the telephone and call centre industries (IT0701039I), working conditions have long been under-regulated and the trade unions’ presence is only a relatively recent development (IT0606019Q).

Manuela Galetto, Fondazione Seveso

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