Italian railways brought into line with European model

The Ministry of Transport, the Italian state railways board (FS) and workers' organisations have recently concluded an agreement to bring the Italian railway system into line with the 1991 EU Directive on the development of Community railways.

The agreement was concluded on 11 February 1997 and sets out the ways in which the financial recovery, growth and modernisation of the Italian rail system will be brought about in line with the guidelines of the 1991 Directive on the development of Community railways (440/91/EEC). The deal was signed by the Ministry of Transport, the state railways board (FS), and the following railway trade union organisations: CGIL (the General Confederation of Italian Workers); CISL (the Italian Confederation of Workers' Unions); UIL (the Union of Italian Workers); the three confederations' respective sectoral organisations - Filt-Cgil, Fit-Cisl and Uilt-Uil; and three non-confederal organisations - Fisafs-Cisal (the autonomous rail trade union), Comu (theUnited Train Drivers' Committee) and Sma ( the Train Drivers' Trade Union).

Previously, on 30 January 1997, the Government had issued the so-called "Prodi directive", laying down guidelines for the redevelopment of FS in line with the Directive. The Government proposed that FS should be split into one company which deals with railway infrastructure, and one or more companies for the management of transport services. Furthermore, it is planned that: "non-strategic" activity will have to be privatised; the use of labour must allow the introduction of "systematic flexibility elements"; the reduction of excess staffing levels must carried out without "additional burdens at the expense of public finance"; various types of benefits for employees (above all, free or reduced-price travel) must be abolished; and the renewal of the sector's collective agreement must be inspired by the incomes policy criteria set out in the national intersectoral agreement of 23 July 1993.

The trade unions' response to these proposals was immediately negative, to the extent that they called a general 24-hour strike in rail transport on 8 and 9 February. However, subsequent negotiations brought about the agreement, which makes the following provisions:

  1. the social partners accept the contents of the 1991 EU Directive;
  2. FS will draw up an overall business plan to be negotiated between the partners. The negotiations will be particularly concerned with:
    • restructuring the company, the adoption of new organisational models, and the effects on employment of the restructuring process,
    • the objectives of expanding productivity and the sale of services, through the introduction of efficiency criteria, and of increasing safety standards, and
    • the introduction of innovative means of negotiation for the running of the internal labour market, to manage the problems of excess staffing;
  3. there will continue to be one collective agreement for all railway personnel;
  4. the partners consider that in the process of railway redevelopment, a guarantee of high safety levels through technological innovation and modernisation of materials and infrastructures is essential;
  5. within 30 days, the Government will begin a new stage of negotiation with unions on the subject of development programmes for rail transport and investment programmes aimed at improving local transport services; and
  6. the guidelines for drawing up the new railways collective agreement are those set out in the July 1993 central agreement.

All of the social partners have expressed their satisfaction with the agreement, though many experts have pointed out that the process of redevelopment and reorganisation of the Italian railway system has only just begun. Given the fragmentation of the trade unions in the railway sector, it is expected that the coming negotiations with the Government will lead to further tensions and strike actions.

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