Cooperative sector agrees new representativeness rules

An intersectoral agreement setting out the criteria for representativeness for Italy’s cooperative enterprises was signed on 18 September 2013. The signatories included the three major union federations, Cgil, Cisl and Uil, and the three main co-operative enterprise organisations, AGCI, Confcooperatives and Legacoop. The agreement establishes important rules for social partners’ participation in collective bargaining, and for the validity of agreements in the sector.

Representativeness in Italy

Italy’s private sector is not covered by any specific legislation setting out the criteria for representativeness required of social partners before they may participate in collective bargaining. All the social partners, even if they are small and not particularly representative, can sign collective agreements if another organisation representing a sector or an enterprise is willing to enter into an agreement with them.

In an attempt to make collective bargaining more effective, representativeness has been tackled in a number of interconfederal agreements between the principal employer associations and trade union organisations.

Agreements concluded so far on representativeness and collective bargaining include one for industry, signed by Confindustria and the trade union federations Cgil, Cisl and Uil on 28 June 2011 (IT1108029I). A second agreement was concluded in May 2013 (IT1306019I),

In the public service sector – dealing with water, waste, energy and transport – a representativeness agreement was signed by Cgil, Cisl, Uil and the employer association Confservizi in August 2013.

Now the cooperative sector has followed suit. On 18 September 2013, A new agreement (in Italian, 94KB PDF) was signed by the three major confederations of Italian cooperative enterprises, AGCI, Confcooperative and Legacoop, and by Cgil, Cisl and Uil. It follows the principles already established in the agreements for industry and public services adapted to the characteristics of Italian co-operatives.

The new agreement only applies to enterprises that are on the official register of producers' and workers' co-operatives which currently employ more than 1.2 million workers. However, its provisions make it possible for other representative employer organisations or trade unions to become part of the agreement.

The agreement represents an important innovation in the development of the industrial relations system as set out in the interconfederal agreement of 5 April 1990.

Principal points

The signatories to the agreement acknowledge each other’s role as the most representative organisations in the Italian co-operative sector.

The representativeness of each trade union organisation wanting to participate in the sector’s national collective bargaining will be calculated by taking the simple average between its percentage of members in the sector and its percentage of votes in the most recent Unitary Workplace Unions elections. Each of these two criteria will carry equal weight, and only trade union organisations that have a representativeness average of at least 5% will be entitled to participate in sectoral national collective bargaining.

Numbers of trade union members are to be certified by the National Institute of Social Security (INPS) on the basis of a formal declaration signed by the company. Once INPS has compiled the representativeness data for each union for the sectors covered by the agreement, they will be sent to the Council for Economy and Labour (CNEL).

The unions have also accepted a commitment, in every sector, to cooperate in creating joint bargaining platforms for the renewal of collective agreements. Should there be no joint platform, the employer associations will be able to negotiate with union organisations that have sectoral representativeness of 50% plus one. Agreements concluded with unions that have this level of representativeness will be valid once approved by a majority of workers. The formal signing of the agreement will be considered binding on both parties.

Workers’ representation

The unions that have signed the agreement have agreed not to set up Plant-Level Union Structures (RSA) in workplaces where there are already Unitary Workplace Unions (RSU) elected by proportional vote open to all employees.

Second-level collective bargaining

The system maintains a central role for national collective bargaining to guarantee the same treatment for all sectoral workers. However, the agreement also establishes that the signatories have the common objective of developing and increasing the use of second-level bargaining at territorial and company level.

The signatories, in fact, argue that the Italian Government must encourage second-level bargaining through, for example, measures such as tax and social security reductions for companies. Harsher sanctions should be linked to incentives to reach objectives such as productivity, quality, efficiency, and other elements considered necessary to improve competitiveness.

In accordance with the interconfederal agreement of January 2009 (IT0902059I) and Article 8 of Law 138/2011 (IT1110019I), the partners agree that second-level bargaining is to be used to resolve matters delegated to this level either by sectoral national collective bargaining or by law.

The signatories to the agreements have also taken steps to make some types of bargaining more effective. Territorial collective agreements will cover all personnel in all the enterprises in a region if approved by territorial union associations that, individually or jointly with others, have an overall representativeness at territorial and sectoral level of at least 50% plus one. Such collective agreements must be also be approved by the workers through a simple majority vote.

Company-level collective agreements will cover all personnel working in companies if they are approved by the majority of RSU representatives.

Social partner reaction

The signatories of the new agreement believe it marks an important change in the system of national collective bargaining for co-operatives.

Cgil has said that it improves collective bargaining for co-operatives and gives this type of enterprise crucial recognition.

Cisl General Secretary Raffaele Bonanni said the agreement, together with the agreements signed with Confindustria and Confservizi in 2013, represented a ‘consolidated act’ of establishing the rules governing representation, the right to participate in bargaining and the approval of agreements at all levels.

Uil General Secretary Luigi Angeletti said it was an important agreement for the industrial relations system, codifying representativeness and setting out joint commitments.

The employer associations also view the agreement favourably, and have said that it improves co-operative collective bargaining by establishing shared norms that will make industrial relations in the sector more efficient.

Sofia Sanz, Cesos

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