New national agreement for construction sector provides for pay increase

The national collective agreement for the construction sector was renewed on 19 April 2010 and is valid from 1 April 2010 to 31 December 2012. The agreement covers more than 1,200,000 workers and 300,000 companies, and establishes an average monthly wage increase of €118. It includes a common avis or opinion between the signatories, which makes some proposals to government regarding social security contributions and ‘social shock absorbers’.

The construction sector in Italy has been badly affected by the economic crisis. In 2009, there were 20,000 redundancies and investments declined by 10%. Against this background, a new national collective agreement for the construction sector was signed on 19 April 2010.

Signatories to agreement

The National Association of Private Construction Contractors (Associazione nazionale costruttori edili, Ance) in Italy and the sectoral trade unions signed the new national collective agreement for the construction sector. The trade unions concerned include:

  • the Italian Federation of Wood, Construction and Allied Workers (Federazione Italiana Lavoratori Legno, Edili e Affini, Fillea), affiliated to the General Confederation of Italian Workers (Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro, Cgil);
  • the Italian Federation of Construction and Allied Workers (Federazione Italiana Lavoratori Costruzioni e Affini, Filca), affiliated to the Italian Confederation of Workers’ Trade Unions (Confederazione Italiana Sindacati Lavoratori, Cisl);
  • the National Federation of Construction, Wood and Allied Workers (Federazione Nazionale Lavoratori Edili, Affini e del Legno, Feneal), affiliated to the Union of Italian Workers (Unione Italiana del Lavoro, Uil).

Covering more than 1,200,000 workers and 300,000 enterprises, the agreement was signed jointly by the trade unions, despite the fact that they had set up three separate bargaining platforms.

Content of agreement

The agreement will remain in force for almost three years – from 1 April 2010 to 31 December 2012 – and it establishes an average monthly increase of €118 in three stages: April 2010, January 2011 and January 2012. It also introduces important economic and normative changes for the construction sector.

Variable pay element and more flexible leave

The agreement envisages the introduction of a new variable element in workers’ salaries. However, this part of the wage may not total more than 6% of the basic salary. The variable element will be established at territorial level, taking into consideration the general economic state of the sector and the quality parameters and production levels of the enterprise. This final point represents an innovative aspect of the new agreement given that, previously, productivity bonuses were established and linked only to territorial trends and not to individual companies.

Another innovative aspect of the agreement concerns the possibility for workers to have two-week holidays in a 24-month period; previously, the timeframe was 18 months. This change will make it possible for immigrant workers, who are particularly numerous in the construction sector, to have longer holidays – thereby allowing them enough time to return to their native countries.

The right to study leave with pay has been extended to workers who would like to pursue courses specifically related to the sector, such as architecture, economics, commerce, law and engineering.

Combating undeclared work

The agreement aims to limit the use of part-time work – which companies often use to cover undeclared work. Enterprises which exceed the 3% maximum limit stipulated in the national collective agreement for part-time workers relative to full-time workers will be ineligible for an important work certificate. More specifically, the Construction Workers’ Welfare Fund (Cassa Edile) – which is a bipartite body administering welfare, the redistribution of vacation pay, severance pay and non-monthly compensation, as well as training activities for construction workers in a mutualistic and bipartite way – will not grant the ‘Unique Document for regular contributions’ (Documento Unico di regolarità contributiva, Durc) to such companies. Durc is a certification scheme, which certifies companies’ regularity in terms of the obligatory payment of contributions for social security and occupational accident and illness insurance. This certification is necessary for companies that want to participate in a public call for tender.

Labour exchange and social security provisions

The agreement aims to relaunch the ‘Labour Exchange’ (Borsa del Lavoro), which is a management system for the supply and demand of work in the sector. The accord entrusts the bipartite body that controls this labour exchange – the National Agency for Vocational Education and Training in Construction (Ente Nazionale per la Formazione e l’Addestramento Professionale nell’Edilizia, Formedil) – with the mandate to set up ‘an efficient system’.

Many other important innovations have been introduced in the protocols separately attached to the agreement. For example, there is a protocol regarding regional-level safety representatives (Rappresentanti dei Lavoratori per la Sicurezza Territoriali, RLST), which lists competences and duties. In another document, the actors aim to relaunch the Supplementary Pension Fund for workers in industry and building trades (Fondo Pensione Complementare per i Lavoratori delle Imprese Industriali ed Artigiane Edili ed Affini, Prevedi). Due to the repercussions of the economic crisis, this fund risks dropping below the minimum level of members required to exist as an entity.

The actors confirm the validity of the system of bipartite bodies ‘which cover strategic roles in policy decisions regarding work in the sector’.

Common opinion

Together with the national collective agreement, the signatories have included a common avis or opinion, in which they ask the government for greater efforts in matters regarding salary and ‘social shock absorbers’ (ammortizzatori sociali) – measures that help to cushion the effects of possible job losses and restructuring (IT9802319F, IT0205204F). The actors have complained that the social security contributions are too high and that there is less chance of benefiting from social shock absorbers.

Companies in the construction sector, in fact, pay a contribution rate of 5.2%, compared with the 1.9%–2.2% paid in other sectors of industry. However, the ordinary wages guarantee fund (Cassa Integrazione Guadagni, CIG) for construction workers lasts for a shorter period: 30 months instead of 52 months. The actors have proposed, therefore, to reduce contributions by about two percentage points in order to form an autonomously managed system of social shock absorbers through the various regional funds for construction workers (Casse Edili).

Reactions of social partners

President of Ance, Paolo Buzzeti, underlined the ‘spirit of unity with all the trade union organisations’ and ‘the incongruence regarding the social shock absorbers’.

The Secretary General of Fillea Cgil, Walter Schiavella, also underlined the importance of the joint signing of the agreement; in particular, he pointed to ‘the responsible and efficient response that the social actors have given in matters concerning salary increases and workers’ rights’.

Secretary General of Filca Cisl, Domenico Pesenti, declared that the ‘agreement almost totally meets the demands of our platform because it reinforces protection and safety of the workers and aims to relaunch the sector’.

Secretary General of Feneal Uil, Antonio Correale, noted that ‘the crisis has not cancelled the agreement and has not divided construction workers and their trade unions’.

Further information

The European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound) has published numerous case studies on tackling undeclared work for several countries, including Italy. The Italian studies include cases highlighting the importance of the Durc certificate and efforts to regularise the construction sector more generally.

Vilma Rinolfi, Cesos

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