New collective agreement for the electricity sector

The national collective agreement for Italy’s electricity sector, signed on 18 February 2013 after seven months of bargaining, establishes a monthly wage increase of €160, and makes company-level negotiations of flexibility and working time possible. It also sets out new rules for strikes in the sector and establishes a protocol for the use of flexibility to promote competitiveness. Representatives of both employers and workers have said they are satisfied with the agreement.

Background

Following seven months of negotiations, the new national Collective Agreement for the Electric Sector (in Italian, 2.03Mb PDF) was signed on 18 February 2013.

The agreement affects more than 56,000 workers and over 3,000 enterprises in the sector. This includes one of the biggest industrial groups in Italy, Enel, which employs approximately 75,000 people worldwide, 38,000 of whom work in Italy.

The agreement was signed on behalf of the employees by:

  • The Italian Federation of the Chemical, Textiles, Energy and Manufacturing Workers (FILCTEM-CGIL);
  • The Federation of Workers in Italian Electrical Enterprises (FLAEI-CISL);
  • The Italian Union of Textile, Energy and Chemical Workers (UILTEC-UIL) (previously UILCEM-UIL).

For the employers, it was signed by:

  • The National Association of Electrical Enterprises (ASSOELETTRICA);
  • The Federation of Energy and Water Enterprises (FEDERUTILITY).

Italy’s largest electricity enterprises also participated directly in the negotiations and signed the agreement: electricity utility company Enel, the Electricity Services Agency (GSE), the nuclear power management company SOGIN, and the company responsible for running the high tension electricity network, TERNA.

Key aspects of the agreement

The new agreement is valid from 1 January 2013 until 31 December 2015, and suggests a series of economic measures which will, on average, guarantee workers in the sector an additional €3,490 by the time the agreement expires.

The increase is made up of a number of elements. All workers will be paid an average increase of €160 per month in four instalments, on 1 April 2013, 1 January 2014, 1 January and 1 December 2015. A further €535 will be added to the minimum salary over the three years of the agreement.

A further sum of €800 per worker will be available at company level to offer productivity premiums. This is one of the most important aspects of the agreement and, in future, company-level bargaining will play a much more prominent role in establishing productivity goals which must be reached for these premiums to be paid.

The agreement provides for the setting up of a sectoral observatory to define and promote ways in which employees can participate financially in the electricity companies they work for, such as share bonus schemes and options.

It also establishes two bilateral bodies, one for health and safety and one for vocational training, and recognises professional apprenticeships as the main form of work entry.

Two other important agreements were signed at the same time as the collective agreement. One was a protocol for the development of competitiveness through more flexible working hours, and the second was an agreement on rules governing the right to strike which will ensure that essential services are maintained during industrial action.

Reactions

ASSOELETTRICA President Chicco Testa said the new agreement’s provisions for company-level productivity bonuses represented ‘a decisive step forward towards the modernisation of the bargaining system’. He added that pay now could, if only in a limited way, be linked to productivity.

Adolfo Spaziani, General Director of FEDERUTILITY, said he wanted to see company-level bargaining as quickly as possible to encourage productivity and increase profits.

In a joint statement the General Secretaries of FILCTEM CGIL, Emilio Miceli, FLAEI CISL, Carlo De Masi, and UILTEC UIL, Paolo Pirani, said they were all of the opinion that the agreement represents:

…an important result, made possible thanks to the determination of the trade union organisations who never doubted that an agreement could be reached in a sector that has been seriously hit by the drop in demand and drastic reduction in consumption throughout Italy.

For this reason, the trade unions will ask the government to ‘set up a negotiating table regarding energy policy in order to sustain industry’.

Commentary

The sector has changed radically over the last few years. The European Union’s Internal Market in Electricity Directive (2009/72/EC) led to the gradual opening up of internal markets and the creation of a single European energy market was completed in 2007 in all EU countries.

One of the consequences of harmonising the energy markets was the juridical separation of the electricity generating and supply companies from the transport and distribution network. This led to the dismantling of the vertically integrated structure of Enel, the Italian public company which previously owned and controlled most processes of the energy cycle in Italy. Enel was privatised in stages and was divided into various separately controlled entities that now manage the different phases of the energy process.

Together, however, these companies remain the principal energy suppliers in Italy, even though the free market increased the number of enterprises in the sector.

The financial crisis has also hit this sector, particularly in the thermoelectric division. This is due to a drop in demand for electrical energy and the development of renewable energy sources, for which the availability of financial resources are currently being considered.

Vilma Rinolfi, Cesos

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