Italy – Developments in social partner organisations: employer organisations

  • Observatory: EurWORK
  • Topic:
  • Social partners,
  • Social dialogue,
  • Industrial relations,
  • Published on: 06 June 2010



About
Country:
Italy
Author:
Edoardo Della Torre
Institution:

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

The system of representation of employers’ interests in Italy is highly complex and fragmented and, despite the organisational reforms and mergers of recent years, it does not seem likely to be simplified to any substantial extent in the near future. The system is based on the role performed by the employer organizations at the various levels of collective bargaining, but in recent years there has been a sharp growth in the supply of services for business development and in the capacity of the employers’ associations to lobby political institutions. The presence of women in executive positions in the employer organizations has increased, and new forms of association linked with female and immigrant entrepreneurship have developed.

QUESTIONNAIRE

1. National ‘peak’ employer organisations

1.1 Please list all the national ‘peak’ employer organisations in your country (see the background note for definitions of ‘employer organisation’ and ‘national peak employer organisation’ and for the private/public scope of this study). For each organisation, give a brief summary of

a) its constituency

b) its membership structure

c) its size

d) its nature

The representation of employers in Italy is highly complex and fragmented. There follows a list of National Peak Employer Organizations (NPEO).

National Peak Employer Organizations (NPEO)

NPEO

Constituency

Membership Structure

Size

Nature

General Confederation of Italian Industry (Confederazione Generale dell'Industria Italiana, CONFINDUSTRIA)

All manufacturing and service firms

Membership through territorial associations and sectoral federations

18 regional organizations

103 territorial organizations

22 sectoral federations

96 trade associations

3 production chain federations

135,320 firms

4.954 million workers

3% of firms present in Italy (a)

46% of dependent workers in Italy (b)

Representation and business services

Italian Confederation of Small and Medium-sized Industry (Confederazione italiana della piccola e media industria, CONFAPI)

Small and medium-sized manufacturing firms

Firms join Confapi through territorial organizations and trade associations

93 territorial and district offices

13 regional federations

4 regional associations

9 national category associations

2 national trade associations

50,000 affiliated companies

1,000,000 employees

1% of firms with up to 250 employees (c)

12% of employees (c)

Representation and business services

General Italian Confederation of Commerce and Tourism (Confederazione Generale Italiana del Commercio e del Turismo, CONFCOMMERCIO )

All commercial, tourism and service firms

Firms join Confcommercio through territorial and trade associations

104 provincial organizations

20 regional unions

146 national category organizations

820,000 affiliated firms

24% of non-industrial firms (c)

no. of employees not available

Representation and business services

Italian Confederation of Commerce, Tourism and Service Activities (Confederazione italiana esercenti attività commerciali, turistiche e dei servizi, CONFESERCENTI)

Small and medium-sized commercial, tourism, service and crafts firms

The firms join Confesercenti through territorial and category organizations

135 territorial organizations

60 territorial associations

270,000 affiliated firms

800,000 employees

8% of non-industrial firms with up to 250 employees (c)

9% of employees in non-industrial firms with up to 250 employees (c)

Representation and services for firms

General Italian Confederation of Artisans (Confederazione Generale Italiana dell’Artigianato, CONFARTIGIANATO)

Crafts firms

Firms join Confartigianato through territorial associations

120 territorial associations

20 regional federations

12 category federations

74 crafts groups

521,000 affiliated firms

35% of crafts firms (d)

no. of employees not available

Representation and business services

National Confederation for the Craft Sector and Small and Medium Enterprise (Confederazione Nazionale dell'Artigianato e della Piccola e Media Impresa, CNA)

Crafts firms

Membership of CNA is unique and gives automatic membership of the provincial CNAs and other organizations in the CNA system.

19 regional organizations

108 provincial organizations

10 national sectoral associations

650,000 affiliated firms

43% of crafts firms (d)

no. of employees not available

Representation and business services

Confederation of Italian Free Crafts Associations (Confederazione delle Libere Associazioni Artigiane Italiane, CLAAI)

Crafts firms

Membership of CLAAI gives automatic membership of the provincial CLAAIs and other organizations in the CLAAI system.

More than 100 territorial associations

no. of affiliated firms not available

no. of employees not available

Representation and services for firms

National Confederation of Farmer (Confederazione Nazionale Coltivatori Diretti, COLDIRETTI)

Agricultural firms

Firms join directly or through the federations

18 regional federations

98 provincial federations

568,000 affiliated agricultural firms

52% of Italian agricultural firms (e)

Representation and business services

General Confederation of Italian Agriculture (Confederazione Generale dell’Agricoltura Italiana, CONFAGRICOLTURA)

Agricultural firms

Firms join through territorial and category organizations

18 regional federations

95 provincial federations

no. of affiliated firms not available

about 66% of Italian agricultural firms (e)

more than 500,000 employees

Representation and business services

Confederation of Italian Farmers (Confederazione Italiana Agricoltori, CIA)

Agricultural firms

Direct membership

417 permanent area offices

number of category associations not available

300,000 agricultural firms

Representation and business services

Confederation of Italian Cooperatives (Confederazione Cooperative Italiane, CONFCOOPERATIVE)

Cooperative enterprises

Firms join directly or through territorial unions or national federations

22 regional associations

81 provincial associations

7 inter-provincial associations.

8 national federations

19,906 cooperative enterprises

506,542 employees

40% of cooperative enterprises (c)

52% of the employees of cooperatives (c)

Representation and business services

Lega nazionale delle Cooperative e mutue, LEGACOOP

Cooperative enterprises

Direct membership

numerous regional and provincial offices

11 national sectoral associations

no. of affiliated cooperatives not available

414,383 employees

43% of the employees of cooperatives (c)

Representation and business services

National Union of Italian Cooperatives (Unione Nazionale Cooperative Italiane, UNCI)

Cooperative enterprises

Direct membership

Numerous territorial offices

7,825 cooperatives

16% of cooperatives (c)

129,301 employees

14% of the employees of cooperatives (c)

Representation and business services

General Association of Italian Cooperatives (Associazione Generale Cooperative Italiane, AGCI)

Cooperative enterprises

Direct membership which gives right to membership of the territorial and national sectoral associations

numerous regional and provincial offices

7 national sectoral associations

6,427 cooperatives

13% of cooperatives (c)

66,500 employees

7% of the employees of cooperatives (c)

Representation and business services

(a) considered are single-proprietor firms, partnerships and joint-stock companies as resulting from the ISTAT Statistical Archive of Active Frms, year 2007.

(b) considered are employees of single-proprietor firms, partnerships and joint-stock companies as resulting from the ISTAT statistical archive of active firms, year 2007.

(c) The proportion is calculated on the basis of statistical data from the ISTAT archive of active firms, year 2007.

(d) The proportion is calculated on the basis of data from the business register maintained by Unioncamere (Union of Italian Chambers of Commerce).

(e) Coldiretti data.

1.2 What changes have there been since the start of 2003 in the structure of national ‘peak’ employer organisations? Please indicate reasons for any changes noted.

In the past six years, the structure of the Italian employers’ organizations has not undergone formal changes in the sense that the active NPEOs in Italy are the same as in 2003. It is possible, however, to identify some underlying trends which are very significant because they are bound to become increasingly important in the coming years.

In the first place, Confindustria, i.e. the largest and most influential Italian employers’ association, has significantly widened its membership from a mostly manufacturing base to the growing service industry. In particular, the membership of Confindustria has expanded into the sectors of advanced business services, tourism and private health care. This trend reflects ongoing changes in the Italian production system. Although Italy is still an industrial economy, the figures for recent years show that the service economy is gaining increasing importance. In recent years, several important public utilities have joined Confindustria (ENEL, ENI, Poste Italiane, Alitalia, Telecom), and in June 2009 the Chairman of ENI, Alberto Meomartini, was elected the new President of Assolombarda, the most important Confindustria territorial association.

With regard to the activities of the NPEOs, given that their main function is still that of contractual representation, recent years have seen an extension of their supply of services to members. From the traditional management assistance (on legislation, tax, trade-union relations, etc), the services supplied increasingly concern business development (internationalization and new markets, finance, technology transfer, etc.).

With regard to specific types of firms, although no formal moves have been made, there has been recent talk of a merger between two main associations: Legacoop (politically close to the left) and Confcooperative (linked with the Church). In 2007 the Legacoop congress reiterated the strategic objective of unification, and in 2008 the National Assembly of Confcooperative confirmed this direction. There are numerous obstacles to the merger that need to be tackled, primarily the relationship between small and large cooperatives in representation strategies. In recent years, Legacoop has focused mainly on growth and large cooperatives, while Confcooperative has promoted medium-sized and small cooperatives, promoting forms of second-level integration (such as consortia). Should the merger come about, the new actor will represent almost one million employees with a turnover of more than 110 billion euros (source: Corriere Economia).

1.3 What is the collective bargaining role of each peak organisation listed in 1.1? Has there been any change in this area since the start of 2003 and, if so, why?

Collective bargaining is the main function performed by the Italian employers’ organizations. Since 2003, the role of NPEOs in this field has not changed and is characterized by the fact that all the NPEOs had bargaining roles at the interconfederal level, while at the sectoral level some NPEOs are directly involved whereas others are so only indirectly through federations or trade associations.

Collective bargaining and Employers’ organisations

NPEO

Direct collective bargaining

Coordination of collective bargaining

Assistance and information on collective bargaining

Confindustria

Yes at interconfederal level

yes

yes

Confapi

Yes at interconfederal level

yes

yes

Confcommercio

Yes at interconfederal and sectoral level

yes

yes

Confesercenti

Yes at interconfederal and sectoral level

yes

yes

Confartigianato

Yes at interconfederal level

yes

yes

Cna

Yes at interconfederal level

yes

yes

Claai

Yes at interconfederal and sectoral level

yes

yes

Coldiretti

Yes at interconfederal and sectoral level

yes

yes

Confagricoltura

Yes at interconfederal and sectoral level

yes

yes

Cia

Yes at interconfederal and sectoral level

yes

yes

Confcooperative

Yes at interconfederal level

yes

yes

Legacoop

Yes at interconfederal level

yes

yes

Unci

Yes at interconfederal and sectoral level

yes

yes

Agci

Yes at interconfederal level

yes

yes

1.4 What involvement does each of the peak organisations listed in 1.1 have in tripartite and/or bipartite consultations? Has there been any change in this area since the start of 2003 and, if so, why?

The above-listed NPEOs have at least one representative on the National Council for Economic Affairs and Labour (Consiglio Generale dell’Economia e del Lavoro, CNEL) and on various ministerial, governmental and administrative committees. The main NPEOs are also systematically involved in consultation with the government on various items of legislation (mainly related to industrial and labour policies).

1.5 What, briefly, is the role of each of the peak organisations listed in 1.1, other than in the areas referred to in 1.3 and 1.4? Has there been any change in this area since the start of 2003 and, if so, why?

In recent years, the main NPEOs have increased their lobbying and representation activities with the political institutions. One gains the impression that whatever the political colour of the government, employers’ organizations (and especially Confindustria) have acquired greater influence on policy-making at national and territorial level.

Many NPEOs (including those representing cooperatives and crafts firms) have also created affiliated companies to furnish services to their members: for example, training activities and facilities for access to credit.

1.6 Is there any evidence of change since 2003 in the composition of the leaderships of the organisations listed in 1.1, in terms of the representation of women, people from ethnic minorities, nationals of other countries etc.

For reasons of space is not possible to analyse all the changes of leadership that have taken place between 2003 and 2009 in the NPEOs listed at point 1.1. Mentioned here are only the two main employers’ organizations (Confindustria and Confcommercio).

There has been two important changes in Confindustria: firstly, in 2004 the association changed from a president representing small and medium-sized firms, Antonio D’Amato, to one representing large companies, Luca di Montezemolo (IT0804029I). Moreover, in 2008 Luca di Montezemolo was succeeded by Emma Marcegaglia (IT0804029I), the first woman to head the organization. The importance of women in Confindustria has grown, also following the appointment of Federica Guidi as President of the Young Entrepreneurs Association.

From the organizational point of view, under the guidance of Montezemolo, Confindustria began a process of “modernisation of its membership system” intended to optimize management costs and render its business representation activity more efficient, also by merging sectoral and territorial structures.

In Confcommercio, the ten-year presidency of Sergio Billè came to an end in 2005. He was succeeded by Carlo Sangalli (erstwhile president of the Union of Italian Chambers of Commerce). Under the Sangalli presidency, in the first months of 2009, Confcommercio launched a process of organisational change designed to enhance the role of regional associations and sectoral federations, also through budgetary policies. The process also includes a review of the composition of the confederation’s bodies in order to ensure more balanced geographical, sectoral and category representation.

2. Sectoral employer organisations

2.1 Please give a brief summary of the sectoral structure of employer representation in your country (see the background note for definition of ‘sectoral employer organisation’).

There are many sectoral employers’ federations in Italy and it is almost impossible to state their precise number or describe them individually. In fact, each of the NPEOs listed above has sectoral federations among its members and associations representing firms in one or more specific production branches. Normally, sectoral federations comprise the associations representing specific sub-branches of the Federation’s reference production sector. For example, Confindustria has 22 sectoral federations and 96 trade associations. Confcommercio has 146 national trade organizations, Confartigianato 12 category federations and 74 crafts groups, Legacoop 11 national sectoral associations (detailed information for each NPEO is given point 1.1).

From the point of view of industrial relations, the most important sectoral organisation in Italy is the Italian Federation of Metalworking Industries (Federazione Sindacale dell’Industria Metalmeccanica Italiana, FEDERMECCANICA), which is a member of Confindustria. Compared to the other sectoral organizations, Federmeccanica has the distinctive feature that the firms do not participate directly (or through sub-sectoral associations), but through the Confindustria territorial associations. Federmeccanica members comprise 103 groups of metalworking firms belonging to their respective territorial industrial associations, giving a total of 12,000 firms employing more than 900,000 people (equal to 10% of firms and 65% of employees in this sector; the proportions are calculated on the basis of data from the ISTAT statistical archive of active firms, year 2007).

Also the NPEOs representing specific types of firms have different internal sectoral organizations: Confapi, for example, has 11, Confcooperative 8 and AGCI 5.

There are then several important national sector organizations that do not belong to any of the NPEOs mentioned above. They are:

  • The National Association of Insurance Companies (Associazione Nazionale fra le Imprese Assicuratrici, ANIA), which represents businesses in the insurance sector. It has a total of 193 associated firms, equal to 91% of the insurance market in terms of premiums.
  • The Associazione Bancaria Italiana, ABI, which represents businesses in the banking sector.
  • The General Confederation of Italian Transport and Logistic Companies (Confederazione Generale Italiana dei Trasporti e della Logistica, CONFETRA) which represents firms in the sectors of transport, haulage, logistics and storage.
  • The Italian Federation of Newspaper Publishers (Federazione Italiana Editori Giornali, FIEG) whose membership consists of firms publishing newspapers and periodicals, national press agencies, and some associations in the sector (distributors, printers, etc).

2.2 What changes have there been since the start of 2003 in the structure of sectoral employer organisations? Please indicate reasons for any changes noted.

Since 2003 numerous mergers and sectoral consolidations have affected the organisational structures of sectoral employers’ organizations. The aim has been to strengthen their capacity to represent the interests of their member firms. In some cases, these mergers have given rise to new representational actors. There follow some examples.

The first case concerns one of the main Italian sectoral associations, namely that of the textiles and garments industry. After 1975 these firms were represented by the Federazione fra le Associazioni delle Industrie Tessili e Abbigliamento (FEDERTESSILE, a member of Confindustria); it was composed of 7 category associations representing the industry’s various sub-sectors. Subsequently, the seven associations were grouped into two organizations (Sistema Moda Italia and Associazione Tessile Italiana) and the activities of Federtessile ceased. In 2005, the two organizations merged, and in 2007 the new organization took the name of Italian Textile and Fashion Federation (Sistema Moda Italia – Federazione Tessile e Moda, SMI).

Again in Confindustria, in 2006, the representation of advanced service businesses was unified with the merger of two federations of firms operating in the ICT and advanced services sectors (respectively FEDERCOMIN and FITA). The new organization is Confindustria Innovative and Technological Services (Confindustria Servizi Innovativi e Tecnonologici) and has 51 category associations and 62 territorial sections.

Also interesting is the case of the employment agency associations, which until a few years ago were three in number (Apla, Confinterim and Ailt, of which only the last was a member of Confindustria). In 2006, the three associations were merged into Assolavoro, which is a member of Confindustria and brings together 62 agencies constituting 98% of overall turnover linked with labour leasing (source: Assolavoro). In 2008 during negotiations with the trade unions on renewal of the national sectoral collective agreement (CCNL) for leased workers, several small agencies decided to leave Assolavoro and found a new association, Alleanza Lavoro, better able to represent their interests. Today Alleanza Lavoro represents 12 associated agencies and is not affiliated to any NPEO.

2.3 What is the collective bargaining role of national sectoral employer organisations?

The sectoral organizations affiliated to NPEOs are normally signatories to the CCNL, even if in some cases the agreement is directly signed by the NPEOs (see table at point 1.3). In turn, the sectoral organizations may sign the CCNL directly or through the associations representing specific sub-sectors of the industry. In all cases, the highest-level sectoral organizations coordinate bargaining by their lower and territorial levels. Normally, in the stipulation of agreements and company-level accords, the member firms are accompanied by territorial associations, not the category ones.

Also the sectoral organizations that are not members of the NPEOs sign the collective agreements for their respective sectors.

In some sectors, the sectoral organizations offer assistance and information, even if it is normally the territorial levels which provide these services.

2.4 Has there been any change in the collective bargaining role of national sectoral employer organisations since the start of 2003. Please indicate reasons for any changes noted.

Like the representation system, also that of Italian collective bargaining is complex. There are more than 50 sectoral CCNLs in Italy, so that it is very difficult to describe all the changes of method and content that have taken place. Two important ones are now outlined.

The first concerns the stipulation of the first national agreement to regulate freelance contracts at outsourced call centres. The agreement was signed between Assocallcenter (which brings together the firms in the sector and is a member of Confcommercio) and the trade unions representing atypical workers.

The second concerns the signing of the agreement on reform of the bargaining system in April 2009 (IT0904029I), which was endorsed by substantially all of the employers’ organizations. The reform measures envisaged should shift the bargaining system to the company level, with a consequent increase in the importance of territorial associations (which normally conduct company-level bargaining) to the disadvantage of the sectoral associations. The agreement is experimental and was not signed by CGIL, so that it is difficult to predict its effects. But it certainly represents a major change on which the employers’ associations are currently working.

2.5 Briefly, aside from bargaining, what other roles do national sectoral employer organisations play? Has there been any change in this area since the start of 2003 and, if so, why?

There have been no significant changes since 2003.

2.6 Is there any evidence of change since 2003 in the composition of the leaderships of sectoral employer organisations, in terms of the representation of women, people from ethnic minorities, nationals of other countries etc.

There have been no significant changes since 2003.

3. Other employer organisations

3.1 Are there other levels of employer organisation (other than national peak organisations and national sectoral organisations) that have an important role in industrial relations in your country? Examples might include regional or province-level organisations, either sectoral or cross-sectoral. If so, please give brief details of their structure and role and indicate if there has been any change since the start of 2003.

Besides the NPEOs and the sectoral organizations, in Italy an important role in industrial relations is played by the provincial business associations, in particular those affiliated to the NPEOs.

Normally, these provincial associations deal with collective bargaining and company and territorial disputes, and supply services to their members.

As in the case of the sectoral federations, the stronger the territorial associations (in terms of membership) the more they are able to direct the policies of the NPEO to which they belong.

The territorial associations also carry out intense lobbying activity with local institutions. They are present in various local commissions and have representatives (based on the number of members) at the local Chambers of Commerce. With the recent reform of the bargaining system, the role of these associations in industrial relations may grow further (see point 2.4).

3.2 Have any innovative forms of employer organisation developed in recent years, which represent employers on non-traditional lines (ie, not purely based on sectoral or geographical considerations)? If so, please give details and reasons.

Female entrepreneurship has been active in Italian employer organizations for a number of years, albeit with the exclusive role of supplying services and with rather weak lobbying capacity. The Association of Women Entrepreneurs and Company Executives (Associazione Imprenditrici e Donne Dirigenti d’Azienda, AIDDA), for example, has for several years proposed itself as the reference point and today has 1330 members. More recently, the first months of 2009 saw the foundation of the “We” association on the initiative of 16 women established in various professions. “We” pursues the objective of supporting business activity through training for young people and women in the Mediterranean area.

Similar initiatives have also been launched by several NEPOs. For example, the National Group of Women Entrepreneurs (Gruppo nazionale Donne Imprenditrici) was founded in Confapi in 2005, with mainly lobbying objectives.

Some associative initiatives have also begun among immigrant entrepreneurs. In Milan in 2004, the Association of Immigrant Entrepreneurs (Associazione degli imprenditori immigrati, IMPRENDIM) was founded with the aim of operating throughout the country and achieving greater bargaining power with institutions, social partners, and particularly banks. In 2007 the association lobbied against the law introduced by the Mayoress of Milan, Letizia Moratti, to regulate call centres. The founder of IMPRENDIM is Otto Bitjoka, from Cameroon, who in 1999 founded Ethnoland, a services company for foreigners.

Commentary

Despite some changes, during the period 2003-2009, the structure of collective representation of Italian entrepreneurs has not undergone profound transformation.

The greatest change which may occur in the short term is perhaps a merger in the cooperative sector between two large associations, Legacoop and Confcooperative. However, this is a merger that has been discussed for several years, and which, aside from declarations of intent, has not yet seen any concrete action.

Again with a view to the simplification and increased efficiency of the representation system, the initiatives undertaken in recent years by NPEOs are certainly a good sign, but overall still very distant is a simplified representation system like those of other European countries. However, the structure of employer associations should also be viewed in relation to that of the trade unions, which are also very fragmented. It is unlikely there will be any substantial changes in the former without the latter moving in the same direction.

From the point of view of the role of employers’ associations in collective bargaining, some significant changes may be produced by the above-mentioned reform of the bargaining system – the viability of which, however, still raises doubts.

Finally, two significant changes that may strengthen in impact in the coming years are the increase in women occupying executive positions in the employer organizations and the greater and broader supply of business services to member enterprises.

Edoardo Della Torre, University of Milan

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