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10. Trade Unions and Employers Associations
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10. Trade Unions and Employers Associations

Brief Description of Employees’ and Employers’ Associations

Section 39 of the Italian Constitution provides the freedom to set up or to join a trade union association. The trade unions are assigned with active role in the discipline of the employment relationship and in the industrial relations. All employees are entitled to join a trade union association which may establishe both externally and internally to the company (RSA and RSU). Likewise, employers are entitled to establish and join trade unions’ associations for and of employers.

Accordingly, trade unions are considered unincorporated associations that do not need any authorization or any registration to be recognized. The trade unions associations are governed by their bylaws, which do not need to be checked by any authority. The union structure is based on a dual organizational line: vertical (Categories, which usually are distinguished by the sector in which the employees that belong to such category operate) and horizontal (Confederations, which collect the unions of the same categories in different territories).

The major Italian employees’ trade union organizations are the General Federation of Italian Trade Unions (CGIL – Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro), Federation of Italian Workers Trade Unions (CISL – Confederazione Sindacati Lavoratori Italiani) and the Italian Work Union (UIL – Unione Italiana del Lavoro). The most representative employers’ organizations in Italy are divided into three big economic sectors: industrial, trade and agribusiness (Confindustria, Confcommercio and Confagricoltura).

Rights and Importance of Trade Unions

Trade Unions are assigned with the fundamental task of representing collective interests. In this respect, Trade unions associations constitute principal actors in industrial relations and are assigned with the delicate role of negotiation and execution of the NCBA which provides the detailed discipline to be applied to employment relationships. In addition, Trade Unions are entitled to be informed and consulted before the company implements decisions involving a restructuring of the workforce by means of a partial restructuring or the shutdown of the business.

This right to notice and consultation occurs, for instance, before a collective dismissal (Law no. 223 of 23 July 1991, Sections 4 and 24), a transfer of an undertaking (section 2112 of the Italian Civil Code and Law no. 428 of 29 December 1990, section 47) and any plan to implement measures alternative to the dismissals (Cassa Integrazione Guadagni OrdinariaCIGO and CIGS pursuant to Legislative Decree no. 148 of 14 September 2015), and in other cases provided for by the applicable NCBA.

RSA and RSU representative are granted with specific rights. If the company is willing to transfer the staff representative from one place of work to another, it has to obtain the consent of the trade unions, as provided by Section 22 of the Workers’ Statute. If the company decides to transfer the representative without going through this procedure, the measure shall be deemed unfair. Moreover, the staff representatives are granted with special protection also in case of dismissal (pursuant to Section 18 of Workers Statute and also pursuant to certain NCBA). Further protection for staff representative is also granted by Sections 23 and 24, which entitle the representatives to leave, with or without pay, to carry out labour related activity, even outside the company.

Types of Representation

Trade Unions representatives bodies may be established internally in business unit with more than fifteen workers. In particular, there are two types of work councils:

  • RSA Rappresentanze Sindacali Aziendali: which members are appointed directly by the territorial trade unions associations;
  • RSURappresentanze Sindacali Unitarie which members are elected directly by employees.

RSA and RSU are alternative bodies and therefore, whether a trade union association opts not to participate to the RSU election, it maintains the right to establish an RSA and, vice versa, if the trade union organization participate to the election of RSU it will waive to establish RSA.

Number of Representatives

The number of the RSU’s members is equal to:

  • 3 members for productive units employing up to 200 employees;
  • 3 members for every 300 employees or fraction, for productive units employing up to 3,000 employees;
  • 3 members for every 500 employees or fraction, for productive units employing more than 3,000 employees, in addition to the number referred to the point above.

No specific number of members is provided for RSA which are free to determine their composition.

Appointment of Representatives

RSA are constituted upon the employee’s initiative by the territorial trade unions organizations who have signed or participated to the negotiations of the NCBA applied by the employer.

RSU are elected by the employees by universal suffrage from competing lists through personal and secret vote and the right to indicate only one preference.

Electoral lists may be submitted by:

  • trade union organizations that have signed the “Accordo Interconfederale” of year 2011 and of year 2013;
  • trade union associations that have signed the NCBA applied in the production unit;
  • formally constituted trade union associations with their own bylaws that have fully adhered to the contents and agreements of the mentioned “Accordo Interconfederale” of year 2011 and of year 2013 provided that the submitted list is accompanied by the signatures of at least 3 employees in production units with up to 59 employees and no less than 5% in production units with more employees.

The proclamation of the elected members shall be carried out by the Electoral Commission established in each production unit.

Tasks and Obligations of Representatives

RSA and RSU are assigned with unionization activities for the aim of granting collective interests of the employees.

In this respect they are assigned with appropriate spaces, in places accessible to all employees, for posting notices, publications of trade union and labour interest (Section 25 of the Workers’ Statute).

In production units with more than 200 employees the representatives have a permanent right to a place for the exercise of their functions within the company or in its immediate surroundings, while in production units with fewer employees they have the right to use, if requested, a suitable place for their meetings (Section 27 of the Workers’ Statute).

Moreover, representatives are assigned to the task of held employees’ assembly (Section 20 of the Workers’ Statute), and the power to call a referendum in the company on matters of trade union interest (Section 21 of the Workers’ Statute).

Employees’ Representation in Management

The Italian legal system does not provide rights in favour of the employees or of their representatives to be members or to participate to the management of the company.

Other Types of Employee Representative Bodies

Within the Italian legal system there are other Employees representatives’ bodies:

  • European Employees’ Committee: such body is set up in all European community-sized company or group of companies, with the purpose of informing and consulting employees on the company’s economic development and on major transnational decisions affecting labour relations.
  • Employees’ Committee in European Company (SE). In case it is established a SE (which is a type of corporation company which carries out its activities in several European countries by applying a single set of regulations), formation and consultation procedures of the employees at transnational level should nevertheless be ensured in all cases of creation of an SE. In this respect, the involvement of the employees may be achieved also by the establishment of an special SE Committee.
  • Employees’ representative for health and safety in the workplace (so-called “RLS”): such body is responsible for monitoring the correct application of rules for the prevention of workplace accidents and illnesses and for promoting the implementation of all appropriate measures to protect the health and physical integrity of the employees within the company’s organization. Such body may also be established and appointed at territorial level (so-called “RLST”) and at production site level (so-called “RLSSP”).
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