giovedì 18 settembre 2014

Renzi Jobs Act ready to tackle unions' sacred cow

Poletti says no decision made on Article 18 job protections

(ANSA) - Rome, September 17 - Labour Minister Giuliano Poletti tried to calm angry trade unions Wednesday by saying that no decision has been made as yet on scaling back job protections contained in existing Italian law. "When the time comes, we will discuss this," he told the Lower House after unions threatened strikes if job protections contained in Article 18 of the 1970s Worker's Statute are eliminated in the new Jobs Act. Premier Matteo Renzi was widely reported to have threatened to scale back Article 18 by decree to override parliamentary objections, although Cabinet Secretary Graziano Delrio denied this on a Tuesday night talk show.

Businesses have long argued that the article is a major stumbling block for creating permanent jobs because they say it makes it impossible to lay off employees once they have been hired. Such arguments have gained considerable attention in recent years given the long-running weakness in the Italian economy, now in its third recession since 2008. But unions say that Article 18 is sacred and they will fight to protect provisions that say companies with over 15 employees that fire someone without just cause must give them their job back.

Abrogating Article 18 of the Worker's Statute to lower job protection is "a scalp to take to the EU's free-market hawks," said Susanna Camusso, leader of Italy's largest union federation CGIL. A rapporteur added fuel to the fire Wednesday when he said that under a new provision, the Jobs Act would require compensation - but not the rehiring - of workers judged by a court to have been unjustly fired from companies with more than 15 employees. "There is a revision of the protection (for workers) with open-ended contracts," said Maurizio Sacconi, the rapporteur of an enabling law linked to the government's Jobs Act. Many past Italian governments have tried to amend Article 18 but unions have always managed to fend off these attempts. Meanwhile, Renzi's government presented two other amendments to its Jobs Act which the government said are aimed at increasing worker protection.

One stipulated that the eventual introduction of "a minimum hourly payment" for Italian workers would also apply to freelancers who regularly work for a company under a so-called Co.Co.Co contract. The amendment added that this would apply even if the minimum wage were introduced "on an experimental basis". Another amendment was designed to reward seniority by providing for increased job protections as an employee's tenure increases. That amendment called for "open-ended contracts" rather than the temporary or freelance contracts that are very popular now with employers. 

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