Working conditions and social dialogue — Italy

  • Observatory: EurWORK
  • Topic:
  • Published on: 02 April 2008

Mario Giaccone

Disclaimer: This information is made available as a service to the public but has not been edited or approved by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions. The content is the responsibility of the authors.

The Italian debate over working conditions and social dialogue is focused over few issues: the inclusion of non-standard workers and, recently, wage and health and safety at work. The most significant innovation is carried out by INAIL, the National Insurance Agency against Work accidents, in promoting risk reduction at workplace in partnership with the Ministry of health and social partners. On the other hand, social dialogue over the nexus between productivity enhancement and better working conditions (career, training, work-life balance, high performance work practices) is investigated only at local-local in some Northern industrialized provinces, while their impact over working conditions have been investigated only in one province. The lack of nationwide monitoring is a major drawback in promoting further research able to ground social dialogue.

A. Mapping of existing research and administrative reports

1. Surveys

Present a summary of the survey(s), its findings and methodology, including any caveats about the research

The QWS carried out by ISfol in 2002 did not include any question concerning social dialogue, while both 2006 QWS edition and Ires Surveys have presented some preliminary results not delaing with the issue (see the IU “Two in three workers work overtime to boost income”; the SDR forthcoming )

Some company level surveys carried out in the manufacturing industries of the provinces of Reggio Emilia (Pini 2004, Pini 2007), Bergamo (Leoni et al, various contributions), Brescia (Albertini, Pajola, 2006), investigate more in depth industrial relations and trade unions behaviour when changes and, in particular, both organizational and technological inn ovations occur. The inclusion of some working conditions issues . Surveys carried out in the provinces of Bergamo and Brescia (both in Lumbardy, tha largest and richest Italian region) share similar questionnaires, the survey size (90 to 100 companies having more than 50 employees) and are carried out by interviewing personnel/human resources managers. In Reggio Emilia province , the 2002 survey includes interviews to both managers and delegates’ council of about 200 companies having more than 50 employees, the 2005 survey was addressed just to the latter including companies having more 20 employees collecting 192 complete questionnaires. All these surveys are representative samples of industrial structures: in the case of Reggio Emilia, the reference base are companies having elected delegates’ council (376 over 634). Because of the cooperation between the two research teams, some questions are similar. It is worth to note that according to the 2002 Reggio Emilia survey both managers and delegates’ councils showed consistent views over most issues, thus showing a shared perception of actual company situation.

While Leoni et al. (2004) focus on innovation and how organizational practices, training, human resources, industrial relations and changes in working conditions affect company performances, Albertini and Paiola (2006) investigate separately working conditions and industrial relations. as part of human relations practices. While these latter discuss in qualitative terms interactions between working conditions and social dialogue practices, Pini et al. (2007) investigate such interactions by means of a set of econometric estimates.

Local differences in industrial relations and manufacturing structure are significant. Medium-size steel and metalworking industries with adversarial industrial relations is the stereotype of the province of Brescia, the 4th industrial province of Italy (Albertini and Paiola refer to it as “Brescian anomaly”) although there are significant cases of widespread workers involvement both directly and indirectly. On the other hand, the provinces of Reggio Emilia and Modena are the reference areas for the flexible specialization model described by Piore and Sabel (1984), having the industrial district as idealtype, based on thick networks between social partners and local governments, supported by a rich social capital endowment and intense citizens’ participation to decision-making.

The structure of the two questionnaires is similar: it therefore is possible to compare figures from the two provinces. In the province of Brescia, bargaining normally concerns compensation levels and criteria for incentives, regular consultation is observed only on “compulsory” themes such as health and safety at work, restructuring-reorganization processes, company discipline and task and professional qualifications; delegates’ councils are quite frequently informed on company performances, employment levels and equal opportunities. In many companies and issues there is no involvement (table 1). The least discussed issues are employment levels, workforce planning, hiring, firing and equal opportunities, which implicitly implies poor workers’ representatives control over flexibility management (overtime, hiring of both temporary and agency workers), and complementary pensions

Further, about half of companies prefer to directly consult employees rather than involve delegates’ council: this reflects the views of 40% of respondent which consider industrial relations as a brake over company performance, while 30% of interviewed believe they play a positive role.

Table 1 Social dialogue at company level in the province of Brescia
Interview to managers, % values
  No discussion Information Consultation Negotiation
Compensation 30.1 19.2 8.2 42.5
Complementary pensions 50.8 35.8 7.5 6.0
Employment levels 33.3 47.2 11.1 8.3
Tasks and professional qualifications 23.6 37.5 25.0 13.9
Hiring 47.3 44.6 6.8 1.5
Firing 37.7 43.5 11.6 7.6
Training 23.7 36.8 35.5 3.9
Incentives criteria 28.2 15.5 19.7 36.6
Company-level discipline 16.0 53.3 24.0 6.7
Workforce planning 41.7 40.3 15.3 2.8
Equal opportunities 47.0 40.9 10.6 1.5
Health and safety at work 3.8 20.5 64.1 11.5
Re-organization/ restructuring processes 25.3 29.6 33.8 11.3
Company performances 36.0 56.0 6.7 1.1

Source: Albertini and Paiola (2006)

Reggio Emilia 2004 survey shows similar results, Compensation, incentives, working times, health and safety are the issues most at stake in company-level social dialogue, while information or “no involvement” prevail on macro-organizational and strategic issues, training, recruitment, and equal opportunities. Involvement prevails on shop-floor issues at the implementation stage, such as health and safety and company discipline.

According to Pini et al (2007), such figures are consistent with a weak participative model. Similarly to the province of Brescia, two styles of human resources management are identified . The innovative firms are larger, with better performances and more oriented to export: they introduced innovations in bundles, that is both organizational and technological, and show higher involvement of their employees both directly and indirectly by means of their representatives, while the “traditional” ones show a poor innovative profile, worse performance and lower involvement of their employees, especially by means of social dialogue.

Company size, corporate social responsibility and various innovation policies (training, ICT, organizational and technological innovation) significantly increase the extent of social dialogue while delocation and increase of flexible labour contract have a negative effect. further, good industrial relations tend to improve all company performance indexes by about 20%.

Table 2 Social dialogue at company level in the province of Reggio Emilia
Interview to delegates’ councils , % values
Collective incentives (including flexible wages) 27.1 8.3 5.7 58.8
Working times 30.2 17.2 14.1 38.5
compensation 37.5 7.3 12.5 42.7
Health and safety at work 22.4 26.6 27.6 23.4
Tasks and professional qualifications 40.1 16.2 13.0 30.7
work organization 36.5 28.1 14.6 20.8
Production 22.4 51.0 14.1 12.5
Labour contracts 34.9 34.4 14.6 16.2
Employment levels 35.9 36.5 10.9 16.7
Company-level discipline 40.6 31.8 19.3 8.3
Quality policies 39.1 39.6 10.9 10.4
Re-organization/ restructuring processes 52.6 27.6 9.4 10.4
services to employees 66.2 10.9 9.9 13.0
suspensions and exit from work 57.3 24.5 6.2 12.0
financial issues 45.8 43.8 7.3 3.1
market trends, planning and actions 41.2 51.6 6.2 1.0
Complementary pensions 63.0 20.8 9.9 6.3
new products and related issues 53.7 37.5 8.3 0.5
Training 64.0 24.5 9.9 1.6
recruitment planning and personnel selection 71.9 16.7 7.3 4.1
outsourcing and subcontracting 72.9 21.4 3.1 2.6
Individual incentives criteria 80.7 9.9 4.2 5.2
Equal opportunities 80.2 10.9 7.3 1.6

Source: Pini et al. (2007)

When discussing working conditions, findings in the province of Brescia shows that both empowerment of middle management and foremen and top-down information flows (goals/targets setting, information provided to employees) are on the increase, while both employees’ workloads and functional flexibility increase in almost 45% of companies. On the other hand, while employees scope to manoeuvre over their tasks is increasing in 38% of companies, the increase of information flows top-down are accompanied by a corresponding increase in the opportunities to influence shop-floor managerial decisions (bottom-up flows) in just one company over six.

Table 3 Extent of organizational changes introduces in last 3 years in the province of Brescia
Interviews to management - %values
  Strongly declined Slight declined unchanged Slight increase Strong increase
Superiors’ responsibility over relationships with collaborators 1.4 0.0 43.7 40.8 14.1
Relationships with collaborators in establishing goals and targets 0.0 0.0 38.2 36.8 25.0
Collaborators workloads 1.4 0.0 53.4 30.1 15.1
Task Flexibility of collaborators 1.4 1.4 49.3 27.4 20.5
Employees level of influence over the way they perform their tasks 1.4 2.8 57.7 33.8 4.2
Employees level of influence over the way they perform their tasks 1.4 2.8 57.7 33.8 4.2
Information provided to employees 4.2 1.4 41.7 31.9 20.8
Compensation share related to individual performance 0.0 0.0 52.9 42.9 4.3
Employees’ levels of influence over implementation decisions 1.4 2.8 79.2 15.3 1.4

Source: Albertini and Paiola (2006)

According to delegates’ councils in the province of Reggio Emilia, overall working conditions did not change in 2004 with respect to 2003. However, while health and safety at work tend to significantly improve and, to a lesser extent, both employees autonomy and control over tasks and skills and professional profiles, both commitment and stress show a strong increase , as a result of the prevalent management by stress (Coriat, 1995) approach adopted by companies.

Table 4 Working conditions changes in 2004 in the province of Reggio Emilia
Delegates’ councils opinion, % values
  decline unchanged increase
job engagement 7.3 52.1 40.6
job security 20.3 60.9 18.8
employees skills and professional profile 11.5 67.2 21.3
information available to employees 19.8 60.4 19.8
employee autonomy and control over the performed tasks 9.9 70.3 19.8
influence over decisions taken by managers and cadres 12.5 74.5 13.0
economic incentives 16.2 66.1 17.7
non-economic incentives (e.g. training, career) 19.8 72.9 7.3
work-related stress 3.7 30.7 65.6
health and safety at work 15.1 59.4 25.5

Source: Pini et al (2007)

Finally, Pini et al. (2007) investigates the effect of social dialogue on working conditions at company level. Two indexes are built up: an overall one, including all values presented in table 4, and a “quality of work” (“restricted”, according to Pini definition) index by excluding “work-related stress” and “health and safety at work”. Extent of social dialogue has a significant positive impact on the “quality of work” index. Discussion over flexibility and presence of joint technical committees have a negative effect on the overall working conditions index, although weakly significant, while good industrial relations have a strongly positive impact. Finally, both improvements in industrial relations and good quality social dialogue positively affect not only both working conditions index but show a strongly significant positive correlation with technological and organizational innovations and firms’ performances.

Present, where relevant, the exact wording of the questions that address the relationship between working conditions and social dialogue

The QWS carried out by Isfol in 2002 did not include any question concerning social dialogue. The only one is Q37 “if problems arise at workplace, are you used to raise the issue to your supervisors? 1. no, I talk only with colleagues 2. No, I prefer do not talk at all 3. Yes, I talk with my superior or his delegate 4. yes, speaking with a trade union officer 5. It never occurred to me” followed by the “Q37.1 Usually having what results? 1. positive 2. negative”

On the other hand, the survey carried out by Ires for the CGIL centenary include a section devoted to the relationship between the respondent and trade unions actions, namely membership, issues to put on the agenda both at national and at local level, participation to collective actions, trade unions attitude towards parties and political system as a whole. In particular, Question 51 asks “what’s your evaluation of trade unions’ officers action in their respective domains? (one answer by line) 1. shop stewards (positive/neither positive nor negative/negative/don’t know) 2. local-level officers (positive/neither positive nor negative/negative/don’t know) 3. Main leaders at national level (positive/neither positive nor negative/negative/don’t know)”

The questionnaire used by Pini et al. (2007) devotes a section to each issue: working conditions changes are investigated in section H while and social dialogue in section I.

H.1 In 2004, as a consequence of changes introduces by company management as well, how did working conditions change at your workplace relatively to the following items? (1 = decreased/ 2 = unchanged / 3 = increased)

1. job engagement; 2. job security; 3. employees skills and professional profile; 4. information available to employees; 5. employee autonomy and control over the performed tasks; 6. influence over decisions taken by managers and cadres; 7. economic incentives; 8. non-economic incentives (e.g. training, career); 9. work-related stress; 10. health and safety at work.

H2. In 2004, how did the following forms of flexibility change according to delegates’ council opinion? ? (1 = decreased/ 2 = unchanged / 3 = increased):

individual wage flexibility;

collective wage flexibility;

individual temporal flexibility (working times, overtime, availability, entry/exit flexibility, week-end working days);

collective temporal flexibility (working times, overtime, availability, entry/exit flexibility, week-end working days);

functional flexibility (flexibility of professional roles, tasks, work practices, job and task rotation, employees training and skills, etc.);

internal organizational flexibility of work (flexibility of work organization, work practices, teamworking, reduction of hierarchy levels, autonomy at work, etc.);

external organizational flexibility of work (outsourcing, subcontracting, delocation, spinoffs, etc.);

numeric flexibility.

H.3. Which of the above mentioned forms of flexibility have been discussed by delegates’ council and company management? (for each 1 to 8: 1. no discussion; 2. information; 3. consultation; 4. bargaining) according to the Likert-derived scale (Kelly, 1991?)

In section I, question I.2 focused on the various forms of company-level regulation.

I.2 What confrontation has there been in 2004 between delegates’ council and company management over the following issues? (tick only one cell by line: 1. no discussion; 2. information; 3. consultation; 4. bargaining)

1. production; 2. quality; 3. employment levels; 4. financial issues; 5 market trends, planning and actions; 6 outsourcing and subcontracting; 7. new products and related issues; 8. compensations; 9. collective incentives; 10. individual incentives; 11. labour contracts; 12. work organization; 13. working times; 14. tasks and professional qualifications; 15. reorganization and restructuring processes; 16. recruitment planning and personnel selection; 17. suspensions and exit from work; 18. training; 19. services to employees (children care, parking, canteen ; etc.); 20. workplace health and safety; 21. equal opportunities; 22. private social security (pensions, health insurance); 23. company discipline; 24. other.

I.3 are there any joint technical committee composed by delegates’ council and/or employees and management? (Yes/no)

I.4 (if yes) in the JTC activity, what’s the workers’ representatives level of information, competence, influence over the issues at stake?

A. information (1.very poor; 2. poor; 3. pass; 4. good; 5. very good)

B. competence (1.very poor; 2. poor; 3. pass; 4. good; 5. very good)

C. influence (1.very poor; 2. poor; 3. pass; 4. good; 5. very good)

I.5 Have the following changes inside the company been discussed with delegates’ council in 2004? (thick one cell per row)

I.5.1 In the planning or ideation phase (1. no discussion; 2. information; 3. consultation; 4. bargaining)

A. flexible labour contract

B. employees training

C. product and technological innovation

D. company and work organizational changes

E. ICT introduction

I.5.2 In the implementation phase (1. no discussion; 2. information; 3. consultation; 4. bargaining)

A. flexible labour contract

B. employees training

C. product and technological innovation

D. company and work organizational changes

E. ICT introduction

I.5.3 In the monitoring phase (1. no discussion; 2. information; 3. consultation; 4. bargaining)

A. flexible labour contract

B. employees training

C. product and technological innovation

D. company and work organizational changes

E. ICT introduction

I.6 What’s your assessment of the relationships between delegates’ council and management as a whole? (1. hopeless 2. difficult 3. fairly good 4. good 5. very good)

I.7 What’s your assessment of the relationships between delegates’ council and management in 2004 as a whole with respect to the previous year? (1. worsen 2. unchanged 3. improved)

The questionnaire shared by Albertini and Paiola (2006) and Leoni et al. (2004) investigates industrial relations in questions 19 and 20, while organizational changes (and implicitly working conditions) are investigated by question 42

19. After the July 1993 agreement on bargaining, the company management is more or less oriented to negotiate with delegates’ councils issues concerning company life, or the situation did not change? (one response)

a) more oriented

b) less oriented

c) the situation did not change

20. For each of the following issues below listed, we would like to know whether company management normally bargains, consults, informs workers’ representatives or does not involve them at all (one answer per row; bargain, consult, inform, no involvement)

a) Compensation; b) Complementary pensions; c) Employment levels; d) Tasks and professional qualifications; e) Hiring; f) Firing; g) Training; h) Incentives criteria; i) Company-level discipline; j) Workforce planning; k) Equal opportunities; l) Health and safety at work; m) Re-organization/ restructuring processes; n) Company performances.

42. What of the changes listed below have there been over last 3 years and to what extent? (one answer per row) (strongly increased/ slightly increased/unchanged/slightly declined/strongly declined)

a) supervisors’ responsibility over relationships with their collaborators;

b) importance of relationships with collaborators in setting organizational goals and targets;

c) collaborators’ workload;

d) flexibility in moving employees from one task to another;

e) employees’ influence level over the way they perform their role;

f) amount of information submitted to company’s employees;

g) compensation share related to individual performance;

h) employees’ influence level over managerial decisions.

Is there a predominance of cases or more information available in certain sectors? Are any particular issues emerging? Has any monitoring or evaluation been carried out?

There is a clear predominance of manufacturing in several SME (small and medium size enterprises) dominated provinces of Northern Italy, with repeated surveys in the provinces of Reggio Emilia and Bergamo carried out respectively by Pini and Leoni and their research teams. Such surveys have been replicated in other industrialized provinces, such as Brescia, Udine and Ferrara.

It is worth to note that all local-level surveys show the dominance of a management by stress approach, consistent with an A-firm organizational model (the well known tayloristic-style work organization, with a clearcut separation between various tasks and where communication flows are mainly top-down) rather than an approach based on the learning company, consistent with a J-firm (learning organization where tasks separation is less clearcut, workers’ enjoy of a certain degree of autonomy and interaction, with opportunity of job enrichment, and significant information flows bottom-up).

Social dialogue is restricted to collective compensation policies and to shop-floor implementation of managerial choices in most companies, especially non-innovative ones. However, as Pini clearly demonstrates, it is a component of both better working conditions and firms’ competitiveness.

2. Qualitative research

Present a summary of the research, its findings and methodology, including any caveats about the research

There are few studies investigating in a dynamic way the nexus between social dialogue and working conditions.

Bortolotti and Giaccone (2005) summarize some case studies on non-permanent workers regulation both in Tuscany and Veneto, two “third Italy” regions dominated by SMEs. In Veneto, Aprilia – a motobyke producer – and San Benedetto – a beverage company – grew rapidly across 80s and 90s thanks to a massive use of seasonal workers. The 1995 company-level agreement In Aprilia introduces, under delegates’ council pressure, a 40-weeks a year permanent vertical-cycle part-time as a bridge from seasonal labour contract to full-time permanent contract, followed by an increase of collective pauses and career paths in order to promote a reward task rotation, thus contributing to the establishment of a management flexibility by means of social dialogue. The 1998 agreement introduced priority to permanent positions according to seniority in favour of fix-term workers: such a clause was revised in 2001 since the company was forced to hire the best workers as clerks in order to retain them, by allowing seniority for 30% of positions in manufacturing activities and 70% over personal competences Both management and delegates’ council agree that industrial relations improve both quality product and of working life.

In San Benedetto, the 1998 company-level agreement introduced the same part-time contract, bringing to a wider inclusion of non-standard (non-permanent and non-full time) workers into the sharing of tacit knowledge circles according the Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995) model. As a result, a large share of workers experienced a generalized upward mobility, since the fast-growing engineering division offered a career development to most qualified maintenance workers and career opportunities give priority to internal workforce.

According to the report “Strategie di conciliazione di cura. L’esperienza veneta” (“Worklife balance strategies: experiences in Veneto”) carried out by Ires Veneto, good company-level industrial relations played a definite role both in Aprilia and ZF in main working conditions issues, such as employees skills and professional profiles, working-time flexibility combining workers’ worklife balance and company flexibility needs (see also EIRO contributions “Flexible working time introduced at Zf Marine in Padova” and “ZF Marine, Italy: Changing attitudes, recruitment, development, flexible working practices”).

Pini and Delsoldato (2005) investigate the connection between innovation and social dialogue in Barilla and Parmalat plants in the province of Parma, two large food companies: both companies are family-owned and well-known examples in Italy of participative industrial relations, although restricted to shop-floor management. While the former developed both innovation and social dialogue policies managerial driven, the latter developed an industrial relations driven innovation based on teamworking and on-the-job training thank to dense social relationships amongst employees. However, when in December 2004 Parmalat experienced a financial bankruptcy, the new management strongly rely on intense information and consultation flows in order to carry on operations: by widening social dialogue to macro-organizational issues, operations did not experience any breakdown notwithstanding financial restriction, thus bringing to the survival of the company

Is there a predominance of cases or more information available in certain sectors? Are any particular issues emerging? Has any monitoring or evaluation been carried out?

Medium and large manufacturing plants still benefits of higher attention than small ones.

On the other, some investigation over the impact of social dialogue over working conditions in both private and public services sectors are mainly focused on work-life balance and temporary workers inclusion issues. Reported studies share the view that social dialogue aiming to jointly manage company flexibility needs is a precondition for easily face any new needs arising from both sides and set solutions granted with a widespread consensus. However, there is a poor attention on the impact of health and safety consultative style introduced by the implementation of 391/89 directive.

3. Administrative reports

Do reports from Labour Inspectorate / Health and Safety Authorities exist where the absence of dialogue between the two sides of industry on OHS matters is mentioned? (present the findings briefly)

According to trade union H&S officers, public reports, such as reports from the health and safety authorities or labour inspectorates, including reports drawn up by consultancy firms made on demand and financed by public authorities may be a relevant source of information on the relationship between working conditions and social dialogue. Unfortunately, while the former are available, especially after the launch of the first National Plan for Prevention 2005-2007 by the Ministry of Health, the latter still lack or are unavailable on websites.

Every year INAIL, the National Insurance Agency against Work accidents, presents its Annual report both at National and at Regional level since 1999 by summarizing trends in work accidents and occupational diseases according to industry, regions, gender and nationality. They usually prevention and rehabilitation activities are reported but not examples of company- or territorial- level good practices based on agreement with companies and social partners. Nevertheless, Inail address attention to social dialogue only very recently (see question 4. below).

Such lack of discussion over social dialogue impact on occupational H&S reflects the lack of a national coordination on health issues in general for a long time . In 2005 the Ministry of Health implemented the sickness control centres (“Centro di controllo delle malattie”) according to the USA NIOSH model, which set guidelines and plan activities to be performed.

The Italian health settings foresee that Regions have the responsibility of the management of the National health service (NHS). According to both the National Prevention Plan and the 2005 State-regions agreement, these latter have to formulate their regional action plans according to national guidelines set in the former, including OHS issues.

The Prevention national plan set by the Ministry of Health include work accidents as a priority of intervention thanks to a better coordination amongst public bodies. The role of social partners seems quite limited at national level while is seen as more relevant at local level, as the Ispesl-Ministry of Health project “Costruzione di reti locali per la promozione della salute nei luoghi di lavoro” (Construction of local networks for workplace health promotion)

However, Regional Level OHS prevention plans aim to activate networks including both social partners, local health services, Inail and Labour Inspectorates and setting specific approaches for SMEs: for instance, the Northern regions of Veneto and Emilia Romagna, well-known for their national-level good practices in OHS, which forecast with specific training of H&S workers representatives and plan at provincial level with social partners both inspection activities and health promotin, especially in construction industry.

According to the 2006 evaluation report, both implementation and outcomes of National guidelines in preventing work accidents are “strongly dishomogeneous” across regions: this is due to wide differences both in the culture of prevention, and in planning and organisation of local-level prevention services.

The recently approved law 123/07 on OHS (see IU “New bill on health and safety at work in pipeline”) includes amongst in its basic principles the national informative system of workplaces, performance evaluation according priorities, participation of actors involved and outcomes monitoring, which should elicitate social partners involvement.

Is there predominance in a certain sector? When so, mention the five most quoted sectors.

Manufacturing, transportation, agriculture and especially construction clearly focus the attention since they concentrate the largest part of work accidents (over 900,000 a year, see table 5 below). Most local-level projects based on a partnership between OHS, Inail on the one hand and social partners and/or the bilateral bodies they have established are concentrated in construction industry and craft activities.

Table 5 Reported work accidents and fatal work accidents 2002-2006
a.v. and trend
  2002 2003  2004  2005  2006  Var. % 2006/2002 
Work accidents 992.655 977.194  966.729  939.968  927.998  -6.5%
Fatal work accidents 1.478 1.449  1.328  1.274  1.302  -12.1%

Source: 2006 Inail annual report

The role of Labour Inspectorate in an advice / information role to get the social dialogue going whether establishment-specific or not.

The Italian H&S occupational services were set in 1979 when the National health service (NHS) was established: they included both occupational health services (OHS) and inspection on H&S, while labour inspectorates concentrate their inspective activity mainly in construction industry and playing a subsidiary role in the other sectors.

According to the recently approved law 123/07 (see IU 2007), labour inspectorates are now entitled of all inspective activities, including H&S, with a subsidiary role of both NHSs, which should specialize in advice and information, and local-level bilateral bodies, where established by social partners (craft, small-size manufacturing, construction, commerce, tourism, agriculture).

Over the last 30 years, both local-level occupational health services and INAIL (the National Insurance against Work Accidents) have played a prominent role in both advice and information. The former produce guidelines (see for instance 2006 Guidelines for work in call centres drawn by the Occupational Health Services of Milano) but because of the lack of any form of nationwide coordination (such as a National Agency of OSH) there is no way they get a national standard – at most, a regional standard when Regions set a regional coordination of OHS.

INAIL, on his own, is promoting a reduction of insurance premiums to companies which score lower levels of both work accidents and – although with a lower weight – occupational diseases. Recently (2005 onwards) Inail is promoting local-level agreements both at territorial and at company levels: these latter aim to reduce them by means of training activities, advice and environmental analysis in cooperation with universities laboratories, paid both by company and INAIL itself. Such agreements often follow agreements subscribed by the same company, the Ministry of Health and trade unions (see below for more details).

Currently, Inail managers allege to attempt to reach some district-level agreements since they were recently recognized as an autonomous subject by law.

Is the gender aspect taken up in OHS, is it taken up in the OHS social dialogue, who puts it on the agenda and what is its outcome, if any?

Gender issue is poorly taken into account in OHS policies: both trade union officers and Inail managers allege that work accidents prevention is given priority because of the impressive figures above reported. Priority is actually given to migrant workers and undeclared work, which show the highest concentration in construction.

B. Actual examples of social dialogue influencing working conditions

4. Examples of social dialogue

The main innovation of 2000s are some plant-level agreements with companies and local-level trade unions signed by the Ministry of Health and INAIL set since 2005 on in order to manage health risks where numbers of companies are operating, such as the Port of Genova, the shipyards Fincantieri, FS (National Railwailys): in these latter subcontractors/outsourcers inside the plants are the majority of workforce, often having an unclear labour status, and without any workers’ representative on health nor training over such issues. On the other hand, INAIL set plenty of agreements both at company and sectoral level in order to favour the implementation of such agreement (Fincantieri, Indesit group) focusing on information and consulting .

On 2006, Inail and social partners signed several agreements at sectoral level. The agreement with Federchimica (the Chemical Employers’ association) aims to jointly develop intervention H&S plans in order to face specific to specific risks agreed with trade unions as a part of the “Responsible care” strategy adopted by Federchimica. The national protocol signed by Inail and H&S joint committees of both artisanal and small manufacturing sectors the 20 July 2006 aims to promote consultation of these latter in planning prevention interventions over both work accidents and occupational diseases by means of joint consultative committees, which could create teamwork over specific projects. This agreement have been replied in several regions in order to promote experimentations aimed to improve workplace H&S and mainstream H&S culture, and to plan regional-level activities.

The program “edilizia viva” (construction alive) follows by a protocol between the Ministry of Labour, local-level OHS and provincial committees for prevention (comitati territoriali per la sicurezza) set by social partners at local level inside Cassa Edile, a bilateral body administering welfare, the redistribution of vacations, severance pays and non-monthly compensation, training activities for construction workers in both a mutualistic and bilateral way. Unfortunately, the share of workers involved by such project is quite low since the average size of firms in the industry is very low (1,2 employed per company) with a huge fragmentation of the industry, systematic outsourcing and subcontracting and widespread undeclared work.

Because of the Italian industrial structure, with few large companies – most of them suffering hard restructuring since 1990s – while the most innovative companies are medium-size strongly internationalized companies. National-level social partners agree that there are hundreds of good practices in this latter group of companies, as local-level surveys quoted above in the provinces of Reggio Emilia, Brescia and Bergamo outline. Thus they are unable to report accurately the whole process. This is further validates of the Regini (1995) notion of “apart micro-concertation”, where an intense social dialogue at company level is able to produce both innovation and better working conditions, but both the process and outcomes are well known at most at regional level but not at national one in order to achieve the label of “good practice”.

The most well-known examples are Barilla, Parmalat, investigated in depth by Pini and Delsoldato (2005), as discussed above, and Indesit, the European leader of household-electric.

Finally the 2006 book “Regulating new forms of employment” edited by Regalia summarizes the results of the TSER project “Local level concertation; the possible role of social partners and local level institutions in regulating new forms of employment and work”. The project investigated the regulatory attempts in late 90s to reduce exclusion risks for nonpermanent workers, while the book includes also a discussion of their follow-up in early 2000s.

5. Social partner views

Social partners report a significant increase of social dialogue, with an actual continuity of meetings and discussion, but more fragmented both by issue and territorial extent and less outcomes. The new bill on health ad safety is seen as the result of an intense and discrete tripartite social dialogue, while implementation of EU-level agreement on work-related stress is still in stand-by. Further, both national and regional agencies show a wide increase in available information (mainly ISFOL, the national agency for training, and INAIL, and regional-level labour agencies), although not yet complete and poorly mainstreamed, over working conditions and quality of work issues, but there are no monitoring tools linking regulatory outcomes and actual impact over working conditions.

Mario Giaccone, Fondazione Seveso


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