Union to strike over Monti reform

Wed, Mar 21, 2012, 00:00

Italy's biggest union, the CGIL, is likely to call an eight-hour strike against prime minister Mario Monti's labour reform proposal that would make it easier to fire workers by eliminating a 1970 labour rule, a union official said.

The governing committee of the CGIL union, which has six million members, is meeting and will vote on whether to approve the strike proposal, the official said.

The proposal is for an 8-hour strike to coincide with protest marches in several regions, plus an additional eight hours of strikes to allow for meetings between union members at their workplace, according to a tweet from the CGIL.

The union is expected to outline today how it will try to stop the proposal which Mr Monti says is vital for getting the economy back on track.

Mr Monti is pushing ahead with the overhaul of job protection laws after failing to reach a deal in talks with unions and employers yesterday despite the promise from the CGIL union to do everything to block the change.

Bosses complain Italy's labour laws make it hard to get rid of workers, discouraging hiring and foreign investment.

The reform is seen as a test of Mr Monti's ability to shakeup the economy and convince markets that Italy will not become a victim of the euro zone debt crisis.

CGIL leader Susanna Cammusso has called the changes an attack on workers through "easy firing". She will hold a news conference this afternoon after meeting her union colleagues to decide how to react.

Mr Monti said he is worried by CGIL's opposition but was no longer willing to negotiate with them as he had the broad support of employers and the more moderate CISL and UIL unions.

"It's quite a profound change because it affects pretty much all issues relating to the labour market," Marco Venturi, head of the small business association Rete Imprese told Canale 5 television.

"It was a long, drawn out discussion which ended with a conclusion which I think is quite satisfactory."

The reform plan unveiled yesterday went further than expected by weakening protections against dismissal provided not only in new employment contracts, as expected, but also for millions of people already in jobs.

The key reform to Article 18 of the labour code, a talisman for the unions of achievements they secured from bosses 40 years ago, will be presented to parliament after some minor fine-tuning during the rest of this week.

Employers say the law has led to a two-tier labour market, where established employees in companies with more than 15 workers are protected for life by powerful contracts and younger Italians and those in small firms are condemned to spend years either out of work or on precarious temporary contracts.

The parliamentary process presents another challenge for Mr Monti. The centre-left Democrat party, one of the main groupings he needs for his majority, has strong ties with the CGIL and risks a split between its more centrist and leftist wings.

Reuters