Eni signs agreements on industrial relations and green economy

Eni, one of the largest integrated energy companies in Europe, and trade unions Filctem-Cgil, Femca-Cisl and Uilcem-Uil have signed two important agreements. The first one contains a broad investment plan for 2011–2014 and foresees the development of a new model for industrial relations based on employee participation. The second agreement provides for the restructuring of the Porto Torres industrial complex in Sardinia through investment in the green economy.

Company profile

Eni (Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi) was created as a public body in 1953 and later transformed into a joint-stock company in 1992. Since then, a considerable quantity of its nationally owned shares have been sold by various Italian governments. However, the state still maintains control of the company: it holds more than 30% of shares and is entitled to use a golden share option which gives it voting rights and privileges beyond those of normal shareholders.

Eni is active in oil, natural gas, petrochemicals, the generation and production of electricity, engineering and construction. It operates in 79 countries and has approximately 80,000 employees, of which 43% work in Italy. It is the fifth largest oil company in the world behind Exxon Mobil, BP, Shell and Total. In 2010, it registered a net profit of €6.32 billion.

Agreement on industrial relations development

On 26 May 2011, following difficult months of bargaining, the agreements for development and competitiveness and a new bargaining system (in Italian, 822Kb PDF) were signed between Eni and trade unions Filctem-Cgil (Italian Federation of Chemical, Textiles, Energy and Manufacturing Workers - General Confederation of Italian Workers) Femca-Cisl (Federation of Employees in Energy, Fashion, Chemicals and Allied Products - Italian Confederation of Workers’ Unions) and Uilcem-Uil (the Italian Union of Workers in Energy and Chemical Manufacturing - Union of Italian Workers).

The central issue concerns the reform of the company’s bargaining system, focusing on the development and reorganisation of the Eni group. The plan foresees an investment programme of approximately €53 billion for 2011–2014, of which €15 billion will be invested in Italy (partly in the new Porto Torres complex for ‘green chemicals’ on Sardinia). The investment will be principally used to develop activities such as research, production, and the transformation of oil and natural gas. Eni has promised that during this period no industrial activities will be closed down.

As for the company’s industrial relations, all the interested parties have expressed their desire to adopt a new model which foresees preventive consultation and more direct worker participation on specific issues and the identification of priorities. To this end, in addition to the company’s Joint Committee of Industrial Relations, a new ‘Economic Scenarios Committee’ will be created which will meet every three months. A ‘Joint Commission for Participation’ which can make proposals, will also be set up. External experts may also be contacted in order to identify new methods of participation.

One of the principal points of the agreement deals with the reorganisation and rationalisation of work. Eni intends to adopt a more flexible approach to working hours in order to improve production efficiency, and to try to guarantee an acceptable work-life balance for its employees.

The agreement also tackles absenteeism and vocational training. In order to limit absentee levels to those due to physical symptoms or illness (3.7%), a system of incentives and deterrents, contained in the company's ‘participation premium’, has been linked to presence and absences. The system excludes sick leave of more than 15 days and will be subject to continuous monitoring by the actors. The company has also guaranteed that vocational training will mirror production and economic needs, and that it will continue to collaborate with the Unitary Workplace Union Structure (RSU) and representatives of middle management in order to encourage workers’ involvement.

Agreement on green chemicals

On 26 May, at the President’s Cabinet, a draft agreement was signed by the government, local authorities, Eni and the sectoral trade unions Filctem, Femca, Uilcem and Ugl Chimici (General Union of Workers – Chemical Industry) concerning the development of a new ‘green’ chemical complex at Porto Torres, Sardinia. The project is a joint venture between Polimeri Europa (controlled by Eni) and Novamont, a leading chemical company in the biodegradabable plastics market. The overall investment is projected to be €1.2 billion with the new complex expected to become one of the world’s most important bio-chemical plants..

The agreement foresees the industrial reconversion of the Sardinian complex (which employs more than 2,000 workers, including related industries) from a petrochemical concern to a plant that produces bio-plastics, bio-additives and bio-lubricants. Seven new plants will be constructed in the next six years, together with a research centre for the study of ‘green’ chemicals and a power station where electrical energy will be generated from biomass. All the traditional petrochemical plants will be closed when the ‘green’ chemical sites are up and running.

The industrial reconversion project states that Eni’s joint-stock company management must organise a human resources programme to manage the phase between the temporary block of the plants and the start of the new activities. During this period, a mobility programme will be set up for workers who are entitled to retire (up to a maximum of 120 workers). In any case, the company has guaranteed it will maintain the same employment levels, with a promise to employ around an extra 100 people when the new plant is fully operational, increasing the number of employees from 582 to 685. The company is also to promote professional retraining of workers through specific vocational programmes. The Porto Torres project will have a significant impact on the island’s economy and employment levels because it will integrate the supply chain through the development of local agricultural crops in tandem with food production.

In order to monitor and coordinate the project, a regional forum is to be set up, involving local bodies, trade union organisations, a representative of the government and one from ENI.

Reactions of the social partners

The trade unions have stated they are satisfied with both agreements, which set out high levels of technical innovation, research and development, environmental sustainability and better industrial relations.

According to Vincenzo Scudiere, Cgil Confederal Secretary, both agreements are very important and could represent a turning point in Italian industrial policy, following the uncertainty which has characterised recent years.

Luigi Sbarra, Cisl General Secretary, says trade unions have backed this important project because it is linked to the green economy, a particularly innovative sector.

Paolo Pirani, Uil Confederal Secretary, said the agreements represent an important challenge in the relaunch of a new development policy based on innovation, highlighting a winning synergy between the reconversion of the chemical industry, environmental sustainability, and the relaunch and development of agriculture.

Labour Minister Maurizio Sacconi has also made positive comments about the two agreements. He said, in particular, that Eni's investment plan at Porto Torres is crucial, not only from a financial point of view, but also because of the highly technological characteristics of the initiative and the significant impact it will have on employment levels.

Sofia Sanz, Cesos

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