Unions and retailers sign pact in retail and services sectors

In 2008, the national collective agreement concluded for the retail and services sectors led to a split among the main trade unions in the sector, so that a separate accord was signed. In July 2009, the three main sectoral trade unions reached agreement with the General Confederation of Trade, Tourism, Services and SMEs on a ‘Pact for work in the retail and services sectors’, which will become an integral part of the sectoral collective agreement currently in force.

New agreement signed in 2008

On 23 June 2009, the protocol entitled ‘Pact for work in the retail and services sectors’ was signed by the sectoral trade unions and the largest employer organisation in the retail trade sector. On the trade union side, the signatories included the Italian Federation of Commerce, Tourism and Service Workers (Federazione Italiana Lavoratori Commercio Turismo e Servizi, Filcams-Cgil), the Italian Federation of Service, Commerce and Tourism Operators (Federazione Italiana Sindacati Addetti Servizi Comerciali Affini e del Turismo, Fisascat-Cisl) and the Italian Tourism, Commerce and Service Workers’ Union (Unione Italiana Lavoratori Turismo Commercio e Servizi, Uiltucs-Uil). On the employer side, the General Confederation of Trade, Tourism, Services and SMEs (Confederazione generale del commercio, del turismo, dei servizi delle professioni e delle PMI, Confcommercio) signed the agreement. It was then definitively approved by workers in the sector at the end of July 2009.

At the will of the signatories, the accord will become an integral part of the national sectoral collective agreement (contratto collettivo nazionale di lavoro, CCNL) reached in July 2008, which the main sectoral trade union, Filcams-Cgil (IT0809029I), refused to sign. In 2008, the split among the trade unions was provoked by certain provisions of the agreement, particularly the introduction of obligatory Sunday work and the prolongation of working hours. Moreover, similar rifts affecting trade union unity occurred on the occasion of talks on a reform of the collective bargaining system (IT0902059I) and renewal of the public sector workers’ agreement (IT0902039I).

Contents of new agreement

The new agreement is composed of four sections, devoted respectively to employment, tax and contributions, bargaining and trade union relations.

Employment

The section on employment contextualises the agreement in the ongoing international economic crisis (IT0812029I) and confirms the commitment of the parties to promoting initiatives intended to prevent job losses in the sector, also through the creation of special local committees, and the possible use of resources in addition to those available at national level – allocated to the wages guarantee fund (Cassa Integrazione Guadagni, CIG) – furnished by the sectoral bilateral bodies.

Tax and contributions

The section on taxes and contributions sets out the requests put forward by the social partners to the government. In particular, employers are demanding the deduction from taxes of certain contributory items and the sums paid by companies to workers as advances on the CIG benefit – then reimbursed by the state to companies through the National Social Security Institute (Istituto Nazionale Previdenza Sociale, INPS). On behalf of workers, trade unions are insisting on the removal of tax on productivity-related pay increments and increased tax deductions for dependent employment.

Bargaining

The parties reiterate the importance of second-level bargaining – at company and territorial level – as the best way of responding to the emergencies caused by the economic recession. In particular, the parties envisage revision, through decentralised bargaining, of the provisions on the organisation of work contained in the national collective agreement. The parties also pledge to promote, through second-level bargaining, schemes for continuing training and workplace health and safety.

Trade union relations

The last section of the agreement contains a joint commitment by the parties to tackle production and employment emergencies following timely communications from companies. The agreement also highlights a joint commitment to ongoing monitoring of the economic and financial crisis – also by means of a further meeting to be held between the signatory parties before 31 December 2009.

Reaction of social partners

After signing the agreement, the social partners emphasised the resumed united front among the sectoral branches of Italy’s main trade union confederations. According to the General Secretary of Filcams-Cgil, Franco Marini, this was an ‘important result and a positive conclusion after the separate deal reached last year. The agreement highlights the function of second-level bargaining and recognises its priority, especially on the issues covered by the separate agreement’. The President of the Labour Committee of Confcommercio, Francesco Rivolta, appreciated the fact that, in light of the difficult situations caused by the economic crisis, ‘also Filcams-Cgil has decided to participate actively, together with the other signatory organisations, to the development of a collaborative approach which begins a new period of dialogue among the social partners’.

Commentary

The resilience of the new-found unity among the main trade union confederations will be put to the test in the autumn of 2009, when negotiations will start on the renewal of a number of important national sectoral collective agreements, some of which – as in the case of food industry workers – had already begun and subsequently been interrupted (IT0906039I). The other important agreement renewals concern workers in the metalworking, information and communication technologies (ICT), tourism, electricity and chemicals sectors.

Cristina Tajani, Fondazione Seveso

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