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Italy - Labour reforms under way

10 January 2012

After the Italian Labour Minister Elsa Fornero last week announced her plans to transform the labour market, the government has started a round of consultations on reforming the labour market. This has caused an uproar amongst Italy's unions, which do not want to see the flexibility of the labour system axed and are threatening to go on strike.
Elsa Fornero has met with leaders of the CISL and UIL, Italy's biggest union federations on Monday. Further talks will be held later this week, including talks on Wednesday with Emma Marcegaglia, head of the main employers' federation Confindustria.
Prime Minister Mario Monti said "nothing is taboo" in the talks, according to the Financial Times. The current labour system currently functions with 46 types of contracts, which Italy's largest leftwing union, CGIL, wants to reduce to five. Although the government has not been clear on the details of its proposed labour reforms, it is well-known that Mr Monti aims to liberalise the labour market by introducing more flexible contracts that are backed by a comprehensive system of social welfare, encouraging workers to move around jobs. 
This "Grow Italy" programme on labour reforms, part of a wider agenda to put Italy's economy back in motion, seeks to narrow the gap between contracts that give some workers more protection than others, particularly those in the contingent workforce that are on vulnerable short-term contracts. 
With one of the lowest employment rates in Europe, it is particularly women and young people that are struggling to find a job in the country. Raffaele Bonanni, leader of CISL, said in an interview that his union's objectives include "more work, greater growth, more support to women and young workers and more flexible hours."
Bonanni, who was present at Monday's meetings, said the talks were "calm and productive", calling for further negotiations that would also discuss plans to make recruitment and firings easier.
The Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development shows in its latest statistics from 2008 that individual Italian workers are less protected than their peers in Germany and France, but still more protected than in the UK. This stands in stark contrast with groups of workers, who enjoy more protection than individual workers when faced with redundancy.


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