CISL, the second largest (4.427.037 members in 2007) Confederation of Trade Unions in Italy (19 major National branch (sector) Federations: e.g. metalworkers, chemical, textile workers, public employees, service, agricultural workers, etc., and 9 other, as we say, secondary Federations), affiliates salaried, white and blue collar employees, through its branch or sector Federations on the basis of non-denominational, non-partisan and non-ideological values and principles.
CISL is locally structured, as a Confederation of the above mentioned branch unions, at territorial (district: such as, for instance, Milan, Rome, Palermo, Florence...) and regional levels (21 regions, in the country: such as Lombardy, Latium, Sicily, Tuscany...; and the Pensioners' Union members abroad).
The task CISL sets for itself, and its main immediate goal, is that of defending both employed and unemployed workers' interests, in the conviction society's interests themselves are, thereby, better promoted. Several fundamental, shared values support such an approach: democracy, solidarity, pluralism and trade union independence from any economic power, employer, Government or political party. And the firm belief that employees, as builders of the wealth of their societies, are entitled to "participate", through collective bargaining and socio/political independent action by the trade unions of their own choice, to the construction of their own and their communities' future.
That is why negotiation, on one side, and on the other what we call concertation (the building up of a co-decision system where, always through negotiation, the social partners as well as the countries' political actors engage themselves to pursue and further agreed goals and behave consequently to achieve an effective all-incomes policy) are the main instruments of our action. CISL does not give up conflict, of course, as a possible recourse. But we look at industrial action not as a value in itself but, really, as a last recourse.
Collective bargaining is the rule, instead, and the normal method of action. Following a national framework agreement on industrial relations signed in July 1993, collective bargaining is presently structured in Italy as a two tier system: national branch sectorial level, to define what we might, somewhat improperly, maybe, but effectively call a minimum wage and conditions accord, and company or local level to improve wages along productivity trends.
A unity of action pact, in force for many years with the two other main Italian trade unions Confederations (CGIL and UIL) ensures a more effective bargaining posture -- even when the relationship among the three union Confederations is, at times, because of different priorities in general, not be the best possible one.
Moreover, the three Confederations would like to maintain with the present Government too a regular consultative, quasi-bargaining relationship; and/or, as appropriate, with local institutions (regional administrations, municipalities...) on the setting of the country's main macroeconomic, incomes policy picture (social security issues, welfare reforms, taxation levels, etc.); as of course with our counterparts, like Confindustria the main Industrialists' Association.
Recently a good working relation, after almost four years of troubled relationship - the employers trying consistently to ignore the unions' weight - has been reestablished between social partners (or, if you want, counterparts) after the election of the new president of Confindustria chosen by the very people who had taken the confrontational road but now convinced that, it does not really pay, even from their point of view.
With the present Government, though the Unions would have maintained an open dialogue and the concertation policy initiated in 1993, such an approach did not work: since their first day in office, the Government officially declared they did not believe in concertation and let it be clear that, if they could have gotten away with it they would very much have liked to do away with the unions.
They have not yet surrendered to the idea - common, today, to CGIL, CISL and UIL and Confindustria - that today's society complex governance is better made by autonomous and convergent co-decision of social, economic and political actors (concertation), but they are beginning to realise that they can't simply act alone and are trying to open up ways, not to concertation yet, but at least, as they say, to social dialogue. Meaning, in effect, they will consult the unions because they realise in Italy they are much too strong to be ignored, but than they will do as they like, if they can.
They can't, though...
Concertation, for us, for CISL, is a strategy and a policy choice. Others, even inside the union movement, tend to see it simply as an instrument. But then those who support this view must resign themselves to the fact any of the actors might well pick, or discard, concertation at their own unilateral convenience.
Which is wrong, according to us, and vilifying the relevance of the policy. What it really means, instead, is a search for the common definition of goals by Government and the social partners and, then, the attainment of those goals by each of the "concert players" on its own, by consequent, responsible action/s.
The final decision, of course, rests as it should in the hands of the democratically elected political institutions. But in such a way the voice of organised work is guaranteed its due weight.
CISL is a founding member of the ETUC (European Trade Unions Confederation), of the ITUC (International Trade Unions Confederation) well aware since its very beginning that no union can afford to be an island in our small planet and, most particularly, in the era of globalisation.