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2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Italy

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 8 June 2011
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Italy, 8 June 2011, available at: [accessed 19 June 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 59,604,000
Capital: Rome
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

The government does not foster good industrial relations in the public sector, and migrant workers in Italy face a difficult situation. The laws protect trade union rights.


Trade union rights are adequately protected in the law. Freedom of association is guaranteed both in the Constitution and in the Workers' Statute – the country's main labour law – and the law also prohibits anti-union discrimination. However, the right to reinstatement is only available where the employer employs more than 15 workers in a unit or more than 60 workers in total. The right to collective bargaining is also secured, and concluded collective agreements are legally enforceable.

The right to strike is enshrined in the Constitution, which stipulates that the right shall be exercised according to law. Nevertheless, the right is mostly interpreted by case law since the only law on strikes that exists regulates public essential services. The right to strike is problematic in these essential services as the duration of and the reasons for a strike must be announced in advance.


Background: Recovery from the economic crisis has been slow, with growth in 2010 estimated at only 1%. Unemployment has risen, especially among young adults in southern Italy. The Italian government also hiked the pension age for female public servants from 60 to 65.

Migrant workers in precarious situations: Italian legislation does not guarantee equal rights, conditions and protection to migrant workers as compared to Italian citizens. Migrant workers are excluded from public sector jobs, and there are differences in reciprocity agreements on pensions as well as access to social housing. With regard to welfare safety nets and policies for re-employment there is equality of rights, but migrant workers face a limitation of six months due to the term of the permit to stay in the country while seeking employment. The three Italian trade unions have appealed to the ILO to examine possible violations of ILO conventions 143 on migrant workers. The Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro (CGIL) has also requested the ILO to examine possible violations of conventions 29 and 105 on forced labour with regard to undocumented migrant workers in the agriculture sector in Rosarno, in the Calabria region in southern Italy.

Lack of collective bargaining in the public sector: Since 2009 the government has clamped down on public sector employees, imposing changes to the employees' working conditions without proper consultation with the unions. In 2009 it froze public salaries for the following four years and also introduced job cuts, cancelling all precarious contracts in public education, in public research and in public administration in general. For the public education sector only this meant a job loss of about 150,000 employees. In 2010 the government also proceeded to extending the retirement age for female public servants from 60 to 65, again without prior consultation with the social partners. The government also introduced a new general system to put off the retirement age for one or two years for everyone reaching the legal pension age.

Government hinders election of workers' representatives: The government has also blocked a scheduled re-election of workplace representatives in the public sector. According to the law these elections shall be held every three years, and so they were scheduled for November 2009 for the public education sector and for November 2010 for the other public sectors. The elections also have the purpose of measuring the general representativity of national unions, which is useful when determining the authorised working hours to spend on trade union activities and the right to participate in the collective bargaining process. As the elections are not general national elections but elections at the level of any local unit held on the same day, the Confederazione Generale Italiana del Lavoro (CGIL) asked the government to confirm the scheduled dates. The government failed to respond to the CGIL's request, thus hindering the elections.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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