European Trade Union Institute, ETUI.

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Strikes in Italy: background summary

Article 40 of the Italian Republic Constitution of 1948 expressly recognises the right to strike as the most important instrument to protect workers’ rights against employers’ power. Over the time, it has contributed to important reforms of labour law. The strike is one of the main forms of trade union action aimed at obtaining better working conditions. It is an individual subjective right but collectively exercised, usually called by trade unions.

  • With the entry into force of the Constitution, the right to strike enshrined by Article 40 as an individual right (in the sense that individuals can freely choose to exercise such a right) obtained formal recognition. It was the continuation of the recognition of trade union freedom of association enshrined in Article 39, as recognized by the Italian legal system.
  • The Workers' Statute (Law no. 300 of 1970) introduced in the Articles 15, 16 and 28 workers’ protection provisions against anti-union abuses, such as replacing striking workers with those who do not join the strike or discriminatory acts of employers. The right to strike does not affect the employment relationship or social security contributions. However, in practice, the employer may take into account the hours of absence from work due to strike for the calculation of days off or Christmas bonus.
  • In Italy there are strikes in both the public and private sectors. In order to adjust the exercise of the right to strike and limit the harmful consequences for citizens, especially in the essential public services sector, the legislator intervened by adopting two important measures: law no. 146 of 1990 and law no. 83 of 2000, as a complement of the first. Law 146 of 1990 regulates the exercise of the right to strike in the health sector, the urban and suburban public transport, the education sector, garbage collection, public administration and basic goods. In these areas, the right to strike is regulated in order to ensure citizens’ basic needs.
  • For this purpose, the legislator states that every strike must be announced at least 10 days in advance, and that methods, times and reasons must be communicated. To ensure a right balance between the opposing interests of citizens and workers, there is a so-called Guarantee Commission (Commissione di Garanzia) required to ascertain the legitimacy of strike.
  • Armed forces (law no. 203 of 1978) and police forces (law no. 121 of 1981), do not have the right to strike, with the aim of not compromising public order or security protection and judiciary police activities.