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Italy – McDonald’s in court over temp dismissal row

23 March 2012

Two temporary workers from the Northern town of Bergamo have successfully fought a case of unfair dismissal against the fast-food chain McDonald’s, which now has to reinstate the workers and pay the shortfall in salary.

This comes at a time when the Italian Government is in the middle of proposing changes to the labour code Article 18, which allows workers to sue for unfair dismissal if the company employs more than 15 staff.  

The two temporary employees were working for McDonald’s for over three years on fixed-term contracts that were renewed several times. However, when their contracts were not extended for another term, the workers decided to go to court over unfair dismissal.

One of the temporary employees had been working for McDonald’s since April 2007 to June 2010, after having had his contract renewed five times. Similarly, the other employee had worked for the company between February 2008 to September 2010. Both workers were employed under so-called leasing contracts (contratti di somministrazione) which are temporary in nature.

The Judge of the Labour Court in Bergamo has now decided that McDonald’s has to reinstate both workers and pay out the missed salary from the day the notice was given to the day of their reinstatement. He said that these types of employment contracts are void due to the irregularity of these contracts.

“These are important decisions,” commented Carmelo Ilardo, of the Bergamo Disputes Office run by one of Italy’s biggest trade unions, CGIL. He said that the court decision was significant because many people were not sure what legal rights they possess when such fixed-term contracts are terminated.

“With these rulings, we hope to have given dozens of people hope: you can still get justice despite government initiatives that aim to affect the rights of workers,” he said.

But the court ruling comes at a time when Italy is in the middle of implementing new labour reforms. The CGIL warned this week that it would call a general strike after Prime Minister Mario Monti dismissed criticism from the union.

Currently workers can appeal against dismissals while being kept on payroll until the court makes a decision. If the appeal is successful workers are given their jobs back, but employers argue that this is a costly affair harming the Italian economy.

Earlier this week Mr Monti seemed confident that he could go ahead with his labour reforms after having won the support of the majority of employers and some more moderate trade unions. But yesterday it was reported that the coalition party, PD, which had previously backed him on this matter, were angered by Mr Monti’s planned reforms.

Opponents argue that the proposed labour reform will make Italy uncompetitive by discouraging companies from employing staff and forcing young people into low-paid and unstable work, while older workers will be able to stay in their jobs for life. 

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