European Trade Union Institute, ETUI.

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20 April 2018

Italy: landmark agreement against irregular bargaining

After long and intense negotiations, the social partners have agreed on a social pact that will lead to a renewal of industrial bargaining practices. The unions consider the agreement a new instrument in their fight against ‘pirate contracts’.

On 28 February 2018, the central organisations of employers and workers, agreed what could become a historic agreement. The deal between, on the one hand, the employers’ organisation Confindustria, and on the other hand the three trade union confederations CGIL, CISL and UIL, will lead to new contractual arrangements and industrial relations. The negotiations started a year and a half ago. The framework agreement that has been negotiated should become an instrument in the fight against what is called ‘contractual dumping’, the phenomenon of contractual arrangements signed by non-representative organisations. The social and economic council CNEL published late 2017 data on bargaining that revealed an increase in concluded contracts, however, with only 300 agreements that qualified as regular agreements. According to the chair of CNEL, most of the so-called pirate contracts settled pay and working conditions far below the ordinary standards.

During a ceremony on 9 March 2018, the social partners confirmed their commitment to the ideas in the 16-page document. Employers’ organisation Confindustria talked about a ‘factory pact’, pinpointing the importance that has been given to tailor-made agreements at a decentralised level. The document that the social partners have drafted not only sets out the framework of rules governing the negotiations between management and labour, it also entails, according to trade union CGIL, a vision of economic and social development and positive measures in favour of social cohesion. The other unions also expressed their satisfaction with the deal.

The document first reiterates the autonomy of the social partners to come to agreements; in this respect, it is also a statement of intent to any incoming government. The main elements of the framework are the application of two levels of bargaining (at central/sectoral level and at company/regional level), a method to calculate the annual wage increases and criteria for the recognition and representation of companies. The national sectoral agreements regulate the labour and working conditions industrywide. These agreements set the basic conditions, for instance related to minimum pay rates. The national agreement should promote the development of negotiations at a lower level, the territorial/company level negotiations, that are more fit for tailormade agreements targeting both decent pay and objectives of growth, efficiency and innovation.

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