Social dialogue and participation; Jobs, Southern Italy and its development, Worktime reduction;The new welfare state and the family; Institutional reform; The associative model and trade-union unity;

Trade union independence always meant for Cisl a capacity to define the unions’ own policies, designed to meet the demands and changes in society and the labour world. We listen to all, we define our policies ourselves.

Such a capacity has been consolidated by a permanent process of reflection and elaboration, endeavouring to interact with but remain free from any ideological interference or party pressure. And by the commitment to develop our human resources through leading staff training at all levels, and by keeping in close touch with many other cultural and social associations and organisations.

Cisl has played an original, often innovative role, in the evolution of the Italian labour movement and in advancing of the workers’ position in the social and political life of our country. Suffice it to say that

– in the fifties, Cisl paved the way to collective bargaining also at plant level and trade union presence in the workplace;

– in the sixties, as already mentioned, to trade unions’ independence and the incompatibility rules;

– in the eighties, to an effective defence of real purchasing power and jobs rather than through the “scala mobile”, by then mostly ineffectual and charged with inflationary risks, by the concerted remodulation of the sliding-scale mechanism and the consequent effective fight against inflation;

– in the nineties, Cisl was again the first and the most determined mover of the tripartite (union, industry, government) policy of concertation (much more, really, than any traditional incomes policy) which made in effect possible for Italy to defend wages and jobs as best possible and to join the first group of European countries in the Euro, the single currency which, in order to go on and survive, must now lead us towards a much more economically, socially and politically united Europe.

– And, right now, at the beginning of this XXI century, Cisl is pleading and working for a reform of the collective bargaining system: to be structured along a different valuation of the national sector collective bargaining.

This first level of bargaining should by now strictly aim at guaranteeing all working peoples’ purchasing power against inflation.

While coverage of productivity improvements, and a higher redistribution of its gains also to employees, should from now on be guaranteed to all working people , including the many who at the present time – working in the miriad of Italian SMEs – do not enjoy any second level collective bargaining rights.

Eventually, such a right could be enjoyed also by second level bargaining at the most close territorial level, should the dimension of enterprises be too small to allow it to be actually implemented at enterprise level.

This is another of the series of Cisl proposals that found at first resistance, but eventually

became a common proposal of the whole of the trade union movement.

Social dialogue and participation
Protection of workers living conditions and civil rights is nowadays more and more linked to economic policy options which may ensure progress and social cohesion, innovation and democratic consensus.

The Cisl considers an incomes policy to be of paramount importance. It knows, though, that it must go beyond the defence and amelioration of the country’s financial balance, crucial though it is to any other improvement. In other words, that it must also be able to promote the recovery and development of the country through a more equitable distribution of costs and benefits (taxes and real income growth) between working people and other social groups and among different geographical areas.

The most useful strategy to achieve this goal is the tripartite social dialogue between government and social partners launched by the 1993 July Agreement. This social dialogue policy made it possible to overcome a period of serious financial crisis and facilitated the renewal of collective agreements, inflation control, economic recovery and convergence on the so-called European Maastricht goals.

Social dialogue made possible what otherwise would have been really impossible, i.e. the conclusion of national collective agreements in which salary rises were calculated according to a pre-planned inflation rate, with a timetable for compensation to bridge the gap between pre-planned and real inflation rates.

And it also made possible a two-tier model of industrial relations, composed of national and decentralised bargaining (the last, unfortunately, not applied to the many Italian SMEs), as well as new forms of union representation at the workplace level, with nation-wide election of workplace representatives.

We definitely think that today, in the knowledge based advancing society and when quality is going to become the most important production factor of them all, it is essential to promote a more direct and active participation of workers in company management. This can be achieved through contractual and legal provisions ensuring their participation in the control and management bodies and their contribution to risk capital through share ownership and its collective management.

Jobs, Southern Italy and its development, Worktime reduction

Economic development does not necessarily create jobs. Not anymore: profits will still become investments but, unfortunately, investments do not always become jobs anymore. Production is less and less labour intensive and tends to rely more and more on computers and machines. Unemployment remains high in Italy, on an average 11%, but with a huge development gap between the rich northern regions (around 5-6%) and a large part of the poor South (22-25%). To create jobs it is, no single remedy is effective and it is therefore necessary to resort to a wide range of instruments and coordinated actions.

The reform of the education and vocational training systems is absolutely essential. It should entail the rise of school-leaving age, curricula and course reorganisation and provide a wider range of qualifications. Investment in neighbourhood services, environment protection, culture, free-time activities, young entrepreneurship, cooperation and no-profit activities should be encouraged.

In the higher unemployment regions of the Mezzogiorno, jobs can be created by means of subsidised interest rates on credit, tax breaks and more flexible contract provisions, infrastructure development (telecommunications, roads, research and technical assistance networks) as well as rigorously defined incentives to compensate risks linked to locally higher criminality rates.

Other possible measures include: reorganising the labour market and streamlining the employment offices on a territorial basis; regulating fixed-term, part-time and temporary employment; flexible provisions in collective agreements concerning work organisation and work time; integration of undeclared and “informal” workers in the regular labour market; providing new employment opportunities for women and young people; supporting mobility, retraining and reinsertion.

The new welfare state and the family

Labour should also play a major role in the reform of the Welfare State. It is now an urgent reform because of the social security, health and social services financial crisis involving Italy as well as many other advanced countries, which threatens basic rights such as health protection, pensions, minimum income, education and employment.

The rise of life expectancy, the rising number of pensioners compared to the global workforce, higher demand for more efficient social services have rendered more difficult the financing of growing social costs.

On the other hand, budget discipline has been and must remain strict so as to avoid increasing an already heavy tax burden (heavy on those who do not evade their taxes, of course: salaried workers cannot; but shop-owners, professional job holders and self-employed workers can and do most often evade).

Thus, spending must be kept under better control by eliminating waste and privilege and by a much more effective fight against tax evasion: all citizens must have an equal share in social benefits and pensions and those with higher income should contribute proportionally to cover global costs.

Financial resources should also be boosted by the introduction of collective supplementary insurance schemes, and by increasing job opportunities for the young. This is essential, since the solidarity pact between generations is at the root of the welfare state, creating a link between those who work now, those who have worked in the past and those who will work in the future.

The family has a fundamental role to play in the welfare state. The Cisl is convinced that real needs, in order to be assessed as close as possible, should be assessed in relation to global family income. And families should be helped in their decision to have, upbring and educate children through home support policies and a wide range of tax, health and social protection provisions as well as a different organisation of services and working time. To achieve these goals, local authorities must be directly involved and specific proposals must be put forward in the context of collective bargaining.

Institutional reform

Cisl shares, and helped foster, the commitment to political change felt in Italian society over the last few years. It welcomed the fall of the communist block and the transition from the proportional to a majority election system which in our country paved the way for a potential, although yet unaccomplished, functioning bipolar democracy.

In order to build a stable political system, permanently backed by citizens’ support and control, it is necessary to create a level playing field and a system of checks and balances between government and opposition, as well as clear rules for the political forces which, in turn and according to the people’s choice, will lead the country. But further efforts to pursue institutional reform are still necessary, in order to transform the structure of both State and government.

Cisl favours replacing a system of overly centralised government by a federalist State structure, firmly based on solidarity and guided by the principles of power devolution to local government in legislative and tax raising issues, full accountability on the part of elected bodies, citizen participation, effective and transparent use of public resources, balance and cooperation between regions.

Cisl also favours strengthening the powers and role of the executive branch and enhancing the Prime Minister’s authority and legitimacy by a stable and clear cut, majority system’s induced, parliamentary majority; a reduction in the number of members of Parliament, much less hampered than at present in the exercise of its sovereign power by party bureaucracies or lobbies; and, as said, an evolution towards a bipolar political system, although not – or not necessarily – a two party system, foreign as it is to Italian culture.

Institutional reform should also lead to the full, de facto, not necessarily de jure, recognition of trade unions as well as other social partners as legitimate representatives of different interests.

Some of the objectives pursued by social dialogue – such as fairness, solidarity, responsible co-decision and a positive regulation of social conflicts – could and should, though, be the object of a specific supporting law and might even be enshrined in the Constitution.

The associative model and trade-union unity

Cisl calls – has been calling for years, now: at least since its 1993 Congress, explicitly – for the urgent realisation of trade union unity: a unitarian Italian Confederation of Trade Unions to gather and foster the experience of democratic trade unionism. That is, of course, Cisl Cgil and Uil but other, smaller, existing unions too, should they want to.

Unity is necessary to extend union influence in the traditional labour world, as well as in the new, much more unstable habitat of the modern, once a-typical employment becoming the most typical: the jobs the young now can actually find, temporary and even precarious as they often are. Trade union unity is needed to attract and bring together the unemployed, the migrant workers, all the other most vulnerable social groups, to support social dialogue in a more consistent and effective way, to give more clout to workers representatives at company level.

Unity is also needed in order to best control, and repel, the natural temptation a more simplified and, hopefully, more efficient bipolar political framework will certainly have: the temptation the right, any right wing politician, will always be most prone to, that of consulting, maybe, trade unions but reserve, then, its own, unilateral right of decision; or the traditional temptation of the left, that of conceiving and looking at unions as an integral part of the one and only workers’ movement, but a secondary actor; together, yes, but below and under the traditional primacy of the left’s own political parties…

But, for more than ten years a confusing but finally clear, resounding and very official “no, not yet” was given us in reply by our colleagues in the Cgil (much too soon…, we need more time…, any unity must be built up from below…: in other words, not now, no). Then we proposed that a new, common Constitution be designed together by a special Committee set up by Cgil, Cisl and Uil: with the special task of defining and proposing in the nearest possible future to the three and any other good will, bona-fide organisation – as well as to the Italian working people in their entirety – the guiding principles and organisational rules underlying a free, autonomous, democratic and pluralistic association, permanently accountable to its members by regular Congressional mandate to define programs, build platforms, sign contracts and defend working people’s rights.

Our history and our strong tradition, as already mentioned, was the self-regulation of unions. Unions ought always to be able to define, in their full independence, their own framework rules of procedure. Their legitimacy should be measured first in terms of membership strength (after all, unions are free associations of free workers, aren’t they?) and their representative bodies, in order to play a proper role, should therefore always be held accountable to members: first and before than to any other sisters and brothers co-workers. But, in the election of shop floor representatives, this basic standard of membership, might well – and actually already is – implemented by the full consultation, and often the ratification, of all working people to the unions’ strategic decisions.

In order to achieve trade union unity, even against the very grain of our own history, but aware that unity would inevitably mean – at least at first – a combination of differences and the giving-up by all of us of some of our own heritage, Cisl accepted also some legislative rules for the verification and the effective implementation of trade union representation and legitimacy, in parallel with the institution and free election of unitarian trade union representation structures on the shop floor.

Not even that was enough…

We decided, therefore, not as the simplified explanation wanted to give up unity. Unity was given up, for now, by those who said no, without offering any alternative to our proposals (Cgil).

At the present time, we aim whenever possible at a traditional unity of action behaviour, do not give up the hope that we may yet reach an organic trade union unity.

But have taken the firm stand that we will not give up – until unity is reached – or sovereign right and duty to advance and fight for our own Cisl proposals: as any respectable and respected social force representing more that 4 million and a half members is, of course, entitled to do.