Section 8 of Act 148 came into force on September 14 2011, introducing significant changes to employment law and industrial relations. It provides that local and company collective agreements signed by the "comparatively most representative" trade unions will apply to all employees. If so, they will prevail over any other source of law, provided that the agreements comply with EU law and the Italian Constitution.

According to the legislature, the new agreements will:

  • increase employment;
  • improve employment contracts;
  • get workers involved on employment issues;
  • expose undeclared or irregular employment;
  • increase competitiveness;
  • raise wages;
  • help to manage crises in employment and company affairs; and
  • promote investment and create new business activities.

Agreements can be signed by eligible trade unions at local or company level. They will be deemed valid even if they are agreed with a single trade union, provided that it represents a majority of the workforce.

Paragraph 2 of the law specifies the aspects of employment relations that may be affected. They are:

  • monitoring at work and the use of new technologies;
  • employees' tasks and job classification levels;
  • fixed-term and part-time contracts, temporary employment and a commissioning company's responsibilities to the contractor and its employees;
  • regulation and flexibility of working hours;
  • hiring terms and regulation of employment relationships, including the treatment of so-called 'Co.Co.Pro' arrangements (ie, continuous cooperation contracts for a particular project) and self-employed workers;
  • changes to, and conversion of, employment contracts; and
  • the consequences of dismissal, except for:
    • discriminatory dismissal;
    • dismissal on the grounds of marital status;
    • dismissal during pregnancy and for up to one year after childbirth;
    • dismissal as a consequence of requesting parental leave because of a child's illness; and
    • dismissal in relation to adoption or the provision of foster care.

The potential changes stipulated in new agreements concerning the consequences of dismissal cannot exclude the need for a justifiable reason for dismissal. However, the legislature's aim is that in cases of wrongful dismissal, it may be possible to provide for options other than the reinstatement of the employee.

The act has met with strong opposition from trade unions. Many legal experts have also criticised what they see as an unclear, insufficiently detailed and potentially disruptive provision that is likely to raise a number of problems. The employers' association Confindustria and Italy's three largest trade unions have recently signed an agreement to confirm that they will continue to apply their existing agreements, signed last June for the industrial sector. In effect, they will agree to a moratorium on the application of the new act.

For further information on this topic please contact Andrea Stanchi at Stanchi Studio Legale by telephone (+39 02 546 9522), fax (+39 02 551 91641) or email ([email protected]).