United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1993 - Italy, 30 January 1994, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa4e1e.html [accessed 9 December 2013]
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Italy is a democratic, multiparty republic with a parliamentary system of government. Legislative power is vested in the Parliament, which is directly and freely elected on the basis of universal adult suffrage. Executive authority is vested in the Council of Ministers, headed by the President of the Council (the Prime Minister). Italy's judiciary is independent of the executive although subject to occasional political party interference. Terrorist violence of both the left and the right remained at low levels, though organized crime elements continued to use terrorist tactics. Bomb attacks in May and July in Florence, Milan, and Rome, which appeared to be aimed more at symbols of Italian culture than at people, killed a total of 10 persons. At year's end one official of the disbanded Italian Intelligence Service SISDE was under arrest along with three others in connection with bombing attempts. Starting in 1992 with the beginning of nationwide judicial investigations into kickbacks and corruption over public contracts and the concomitant weakening of the traditional political parties the judiciary has been under less political party pressure than in the past. However, human rights groups and others criticized the extensive use of preventive detention for persons accused of corruption. Italy has an industrialized market economy. Although heavy government ownership of the primary industrial sectors persists, the Government and Parliament have moved forward on privatization, now well underway. In 1993 economic growth was slightly negative, with unemployment at over 11 percent, though inflation was held to less than 5 percent. Once dynamic small and medium-sized firms were seriously hit by economic recession. Worker rights are generally respected and the Government openly addresses human rights issues which arise. The Government consistently condemned sporadic acts of violence and discrimination aimed at ethnic or religious minorities. Italy continued to experience a substantial influx of third-world and eastern European immigrants; public attention continued to focus on the problem of racism.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing
Neither government forces nor legal opposition organizations engaged in politically motivated killings. However, in September a 10-year-old Gypsy was killed in a carabinieri station shortly after his arrest, reportedly as a result of a scuffle over an officer's weapon. An investigation was launched but no conclusion had been announced by year's end. In March an Iranian opposition leader was shot dead in Rome. No assailants had been arrested for this offense at year's end. An official of SISDE, along with three accomplices, two of whom are from organized crime families, were arrested on the charge of placing a fake bomb on a train; government authorities are examining possible links with other bombing attempts.
There were no cases of politically motivated disappearances or kidnapings.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Freedom from torture is provided for by law and respected in practice. Cruel and degrading punishment is forbidden by law. There were credible reports, however, that detainees and prisoners were abused during police interrogation in several cases. The most common forms of alleged ill-treatment were repeated kicks and punches and prolonged beatings with batons. There were also complaints of severe overcrowding, poor sanitation, and inadequate medical assistance. A May 1993 report by Amnesty International (AI) denounced an increase in alleged ill-treatment of prisoners by prison guards, noting that "sharply deteriorating living conditions and increased detention" in jails also may have played a role. According to AI, the Government replied to only one of its requests for an inquiry into the alleged maltreatment. In its reply, the Government denied there had been any ill-treatment of prisoners and noted that there might have been "misunderstandings" over the "special treatment" of and the "severe restrictions" for Mafia-related convicts. Those perpetrating ill-treatment of detainees and prisoners rarely have been the object of disciplinary proceedings. On December 15, 1992, a group of lawyers presented a report to the Naples Public Prosecutor about allegations of "systematic beatings and gratuitous ill-treatment" being inflicted on inmates of Secondigliano Prison by prison guards and requested an immediate judicial inquiry. The Deputy Public Prosecutor led a judicial inquiry which included a nighttime visit to the prison on January 28, during which a number of prisoners bearing signs of physical injury were reportedly seen. On February 18, the Parliamentary Committee for Prison Affairs conducted a visit of inspection of the prison. On April 26, the commandant of the prison guards at the prison and five superintendents were suspended from duty for a preliminary period of 2 months in connection with possible criminal charges, including abusing their authority, striking prisoners, and giving false testimony. The commandant was suspected of having instigated the beating of inmates by prison guards and of opening the prisoners' outgoing mail and threatening them with further violence if they failed to remove passages referring to their alleged ill-treatment. The charges were ultimately dropped. At the end of April, an additional 60 to 70 guards were reportedly under judicial investigation in connection with the ill-treatment of prisoners. Here, too, the charges were dropped. On November 16, the director of a jail in the northern city of Pavia was suspended from duty and committed to trial on charges of having placed in isolation a detainee for whom a medical doctor had instead recommended hospitalization. His trial is scheduled for mid-January. At the end of August, the jail population reached 52,320 persons, more than a 10-percent increase over 1992 and approximately a 100-percent increase over 1991. The increase was due partly to more efficacious police operations and partly to the slowness of the Italian judicial system. The capacity of penal facilities, however, has remained the same. Some prisons had populations double or triple their capacity. According to the Justice Ministry, from January through October, 49 inmates committed suicide, compared to a total of 47 suicides in 1992 and 29 in 1991. Protests against overcrowding sparked hunger strikes in jails nationwide in May, July, and November. In August the Government passed legislation aimed at reducing the jail population by making it easier for certain categories of offenders to receive house arrests or other alternative sentences. Also in August, the Government dedicated approximately $90 million at the then prevailing exchange rate (150 billion lira) to complete the building of new jails. Authorities are in the process of separating less serious offenders from other prisoners in existing facilities. Felony offenders and high-risk prisoners such as Mafiosi are held in high-security wings of regular jails. The Government permits independent monitoring of prison conditions, under the supervision of jail directors, by parliamentarians, local human rights groups, the media, and other organizations.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
Police procedures are controlled by law and judicial oversight. Arbitrary arrest is not practiced. Anyone detained by the authorities must be charged within 48 hours, except for Mafia-related suspects who may be charged "as soon as possible." Italy does not have a system of bail. Judges may grant provisional liberty to persons awaiting trial; this occurs frequently. The law imposes broad time limits on pretrial investigative or preventive detention, which includes detention in connection with one specific offense prior to the conclusion of all appeals. Preventive detention is implemented to prevent a suspect from fleeing or destroying evidence while authorities investigate and is not permitted for minor offenses. In normal criminal cases, the maximum permissible duration of preventive or investigative detention is 4 years, with no more that 2 years at each step of the trial during the appeals process. The Government moved to extend the total period to 6 years for defendants accused of Mafia-related crimes. Preventive detention is sometimes longer than the penalty for the crime; restitution for unjust detention is provided for in the Constitution and in law. In practice, pretrial detention is extended when the accused, already being held without bail on specific charges, is charged with additional offenses. This has often been the case during judiciary proceedings connected to kickbacks and corruption over government contracts (widely known as "clean hands" proceedings), which started in Milan in February 1992 and have since spread throughout the country. Politicians of all parties as well as officials of private and public companies have been implicated. Each offense with which "clean hands" defendants are charged allows a maximum preventive custody of 3 months. Since most of the defendants are charged with more than one offense, some have remained in jail for longer than 3 months. In early 1993, the Italian League of Human Rights published a warning by a French human rights expert regarding the potential for abuse of this provision. In July, following the suicide of a "clean hands" detainee, there was considerable public criticism, though not from human rights groups, of the extensive use of preventive detention for those accused of such offenses. On December 1, Parliament voted to ask the Government to revise the law on preventive custody to avoid accumulation of charges against defendants and the consequent extension of the terms of pretrial custody. This revision had not been implemented at year's end. According to official figures of the Justice Department, defendants awaiting trial comprise 50 percent of the total jail population; those awaiting their first trial comprise 29 percent of the total jail population. Because of chronic understaffing in the judiciary, police, and clerical staff, and lack of office space, equipment, and training courses, the average waiting period for trials is about 18 months but can exceed 24 months. Thus, despite the judiciary's efforts to extend the periods of preventive custody in order to keep a prisoner in jail until the beginning of the trial, many defendants are released before the proceedings start. Arrest warrants are issued by investigating judges. People held in detention are allowed prompt and regular access to lawyers of their choosing. If detainees are indigent, a lawyer is provided by the State. Normally, people held in detention are also allowed prompt and regular access to family members. However, defendants charged with more serious offenses, including Mafia-related crimes, are allowed regular but limited contacts with their families. As a safeguard against possible abuses involving unjustified detention, "liberty tribunals" are empowered to review available evidence in cases of persons awaiting trial and to decide whether continued detention is warranted. Judges in "liberty tribunals" are drawn from the normal courthouses but only review cases involving the detention of prisoners. Exile abroad as a form of punishment is not practiced. In July Parliament passed a bill that negates the possibility of domestic exile.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
A fair and public trial is assured by law and broadly observed in practice. Counsel is provided for the accused, free of charge if necessary. Good faith efforts are made to guarantee due process rights. Nevertheless, trial procedures are often cumbersome; trials frequently last years. A revised Code of Criminal Procedure which entered into force in 1989 sought to streamline the process. The Code provides for a more adversarial system designed to promote speedier trials. Initial unfamiliarity with the new system on the part of judicial authorities created bureaucratic problems, increased delays, and further increased existing backlogs, yet to be fully cleared. In addition, parts of the new criminal code did not prove workable and are slowly being amended by Parliament to restore time-saving devices of the old code, such as admitting pretrial testimony. All court cases may be appealed to the highest appellate court, the Court of Cassation. There are no political or security courts or political prisoners. The judiciary is formally autonomous and independent of the executive. Nonetheless, before the start of the "clean hands" judicial proceedings in 1992, there was a broad perception that magistrates were subject to political influence and that the political views of certain judges affected proceedings. Since the start of the "clean hands" investigations, magistrates have increasingly disengaged themselves from traditional pressure by political parties and are investigating members of all parties for kickbacks, corruption, and reception of stolen goods. Over 25 magistrates so far have come under investigation on suspicion of links with the Mafia; the list continues to grow. One judge of the Supreme Court of Cassation, who for 6 years overruled a total of 400 verdicts of the lower courts for alleged technical errors in reaching judgments in Mafia trials, was placed under investigation by the Superior Magistrates Council (CSM) in September 1992. In March 1993, the office of the Palermo public prosecutor began judicial investigations against him for ties with organized crime; in April he was suspended from office. In December 1992, a Sicilian judge committed suicide because of suspicion of collusion with the Cosa Nostra. In May 1993, the Naples judiciary arrested a judge with ties with the Camorra (a criminal organization); he was the first judge to be arrested on such charges. Several sitting and former judges and other magistrates in Bari, Milan, Florence, Perugia, and throughout Sicily are under judicial investigation or under suspension in connection with antiorganized crime cases or as part of proceedings in the "clean hands" corruption scandals. In December the Justice Minister started disciplinary proceedings against 21 magistrates belonging to Masonry lodges for "incompatibility with the impartial behavior required by their position." He also asked the CSM to transfer these judges. The judiciary in the southern city of Palmi is investigating several other judges for Masonic association.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The concept of the privacy of the home is safeguarded legally and respected by the authorities. Searches and electronic monitoring may be carried out only under judicial warrant and in carefully defined circumstances.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
Free speech and a free press are assured by law and observed in practice. Publications are free from government control and present views across the political spectrum without censorship. Under Italian law, publications may be seized for violation of obscenity laws or for defamation of state institutions. These powers are seldom invoked; they have not been used in the past several years. In addition to government-run radio and television, many private radio stations operate. The political views of these stations differ widely. A lively political debate over the issue of media regulation reflects public concern over the potential for monopolistic power on the part of the private media. The Government's controversial allocation of private television channels in 1990 and 1992 came under the scrutiny of the judiciary on the suspicion that political parties gained an advantage from the allocation of stations through their links with the private owners. On October 27, Parliament approved a decree giving the Government a mandate to redefine the allocation plan by October 1994.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
Citizens freely exercise their right of peaceful assembly, which is limited only in cases where national security or public safety is endangered. Permits are not required for meetings, but organizers of public demonstrations must notify the police in advance. Professional and employer associations organize and represent their constituencies freely. While allowing freedom of association, the Constitution and law prohibit secret associations, associations that pursue political aims by using paramilitary structures, and the reorganization of the dissolved Fascist Party. An increasing number of episodes of violence perpetrated in 1992 and early 1993 by neo-Fascist groups against Jews, Gypsies, and third- country nationals led the Government to issue a decree in April allowing the arrest of members of groups inciting racial, ethnic, national, or religious discrimination. The decree allows the police to search and close neo-Fascist meetingplaces. These measures led to the arrest in May of a person for having burned the Israeli flag and in July of nine persons on charges of seeking to reorganize the Fascist Party. At least 15 other persons were under judicial investigation for the same charge at year's end.
c. Freedom of Religion
Individuals are free to profess and practice any religious faith. All religions are free to organize and proselytize within the limits imposed by the laws governing public order. Italy's relations with the Roman Catholic Church are governed by a 1984 agreement (Concordat) between the Government and the Holy See, ratified in 1985. The agreement, which replaced the Concordat of 1929, recognized the rights of Catholicism and its historic presence in Italy but no longer accorded Catholicism the status of a state religion. The Roman Catholic Church continues informally to enjoy special standing partly as a result of the Concordat but also because of the presence of the Vatican and because the overwhelming majority of Italians are Roman Catholic. Taxpayers may elect to designate a small percentage of their tax payment to the Catholic Church, the Adventist Church, the Assemblies of God, or the State for social or humanitarian purposes; the percentage is the same regardless of the recipient. In November the Italian Buddhist community initiated procedures to receive similar funding. Roman Catholic religious instruction is offered in the public schools as an optional subject. The Ministry of Education has instructed schools to provide an optional course (such as the history of religions or drawing but not mandatory courses such as mathematics or literature) to students who do not want to attend the "hour of religion." Some schools allow free time to students who do not elect to take either course.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
Citizens may travel freely both within the country and abroad. Emigration is unrestricted. Citizens who leave are guaranteed the right to return, and the Constitution forbids deprivation of citizenship for political reasons. According to government statistics in September, a total of 19,182 refugees came to Italy, primarily from the former Yugoslavia. Government authorities in December estimated the total number for 1993 at 26,000, mostly from the former Yugoslavia and a few hundred from Somalia. The Government arranged for their temporary stay. There is no reliable estimate of the number of unregistered refugees who also entered. Some regional governments provided assistance in employment, housing, health care, and education. A new law on citizenship, which came into force in August 1992 reduced from 5 to 3 years the period of residence necessary for some immigrants (those born in Italy or of Italian origin) to acquire Italian citizenship. The law retained the 5-year residency requirement for immigrants from European Community (EC) countries and increased from 5 to 10 years the required residence period for non-EC immigrants.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
Italy has a parliamentary system with members of Parliament elected on the basis of universal adult suffrage. Although the Constitution outlaws the Fascist Party, a wide range of organized and active political parties exists from the far left to the far right of the political spectrum. Election campaigns are free and open, and voting is by secret ballot. The two chambers of Parliament and regional, provincial, and municipal councils are elected at regular intervals of 5 years; the Constitution allows the President of the Republic to call special parliamentary elections. A 1992 electoral reform provided for the direct election of mayors in municipalities with over 15,000 inhabitants. A 1993 reform provided for 75 percent of the seats of both houses of Parliament to be elected on a majority basis in single-member districts and 25 percent to continue to be elected on a proportional basis. There are no restrictions in law on the participation of women in government and politics. Political and social customs continue to result, however, in a lower percentage of participation by women than by men. In 1993, 3 of 24 Cabinet members, 31 of 325 Senators, and 51 of 630 deputies in the lower house were women. New electoral laws have provisions that either encourage more female candidates or place them higher on proportional voting lists.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
Nongovernmental organizations, including human rights organizations, are free to investigate conditions in Italy, attend trials, and publish their findings.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status
There is no legal discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex (except with regard to work regarded as dangerous; see below), ethnic background, or political opinion. In practice, discrimination based on sex and ethnic background, among other factors, continues.
Women participate freely in political and social life but still face discrimination, sometimes legally. For instance, no women, regardless of age, are permitted to be employed underground in quarries, mines, or tunnels. Despite legal guarantees, employers continue to favor men over women in filling jobs, particularly those with prospects for advancement to management. Women fill approximately 10 percent of managerial positions and are poorly represented in the professions. Women tend to remain in employment areas such as schoolteaching and in public employment sectors such as post offices, government ministries, the national health service, national social security institute, and national statistical office. The Italian media has reported a 10-percent increase in the number of female police officers. Labor agreements in significant sectors such as metalworking (the leading industrial sector), local administration, and public service prohibit sexual harassment, which, however, is not prohibited by law. This makes it difficult for women successfully to pursue such cases in court. For example, in a prominent case in the Piedmont region, a female employee was unable to win a harassment case despite having 15 witnesses who confirmed her accusations against her supervisor. Women enjoy legal equality with men in marriage. In the event of divorce, a woman is entitled to a share of the survivor's pension and any inheritance in the event of the death of her ex-husband. The property of a married couple is considered community property unless husband and wife agree to keep their property divided. All assets acquired prior to marriage are exempt from the community property provision. Legislation seeks to provide women protection from physical abuse. Police and judges are not reluctant to intervene and mete out punishment in such cases. Spousal rape was tried in the courts in 1993 under the Criminal Code. Although there are no statistically reliable studies attesting to the extent of domestic violence against women, newspaper reports of such violence are common and it is thought to be widespread. The Government provides a public telephone service, Telefona Rosa, which offers legal, practical, social, and psychological counseling for women in difficulty. The Prime Minister's Office on the Status of Women has stated that, while laws exist to punish those who commit acts of violence against women and the laws are enforced, victims often do not bring charges due to fear, shame, or ignorance of the law.
In recent years, elements of Italian society have manifested growing concern over violence against children. A privately financed, nationwide, toll-free telephone hotline service to help abused children, established in 1987, has received over 270,000 calls. Private volunteer organizations operate to protect minors from potential abuse; social workers either on their own initiative or with orders from a "Judge of Minors" can take remedial or punitive action. Social workers can also place abused children in family shelters. Reliable, consistent statistics on child abuse are often not readily available. According to the national hotline for children, most callers complain of psychological violence, physical abuse, or negligence. Available evidence suggests that most of those calling to denounce maltreatment of children are adults, but the number of children using child-abuse protection telephone lines is increasing. Some experts in the field believe that, rather than indicating that abuse is increasing, this may signify that children's fear of reaching out for support is diminishing. According to these statistics, about 50 percent of those calling are from northern Italy and mostly denounce cases of physical abuse. The remainder is evenly divided between the central and southern regions, where the child mistreatment most commonly denounced is sexual abuse. An assessment by another private institution (for the protection of maltreated children) indicates 100,000-150,000 cases of child abuse are perpetrated every year, of which 50,000 are physical abuse and about 40,000 are sexual. The Government in 1993 reorganized the Department of Social Affairs to give it principal responsibility for children's rights. In September an 8-member committee was established with the task of advising the Minister on policy concerning minors.
North Africans residing and working in Italy and the population of Gypsy origin are subject to discrimination. Aggressive racial incidents aimed at foreigners and immigrants increased and spread all over Italy in 1993. Among the most significant incidents were the beating of several hundred North African tomato-pickers by the population of a southern Italian town, who were aroused and spurred on by persons operating illegal employment schemes historically present in southern Italy under a system called "caporalato"; beatings of North African drug-peddlers and destitutes in the northern city of Genoa; the burning of a Caritas assistance center being readied for immigrants near Caserta, in the south, and the burning of lodgings for immigrants in Rome and of housing for North Africans in the north central city of Bologna. Some arrests were made in the Genoa beatings, but at year's end other perpetrators had not yet been apprehended. Despite official efforts to integrate the Gypsy population into Italian society, Gypsy communities continue to stand out and to attract negative, sometimes violent, attention because of an increase in pickpocketing and other street crime in which some members of these groups are popularly viewed to be predominant participants. As in 1992, during the first half of 1993 trailers in Gypsy camps in Rome and Bologna were set on fire. Police regularly investigate such incidents. While the perpetrators of these particular crimes have not yet been apprehended, the Government prosecutes such offenders when they are apprehended. Local administrations and communities have shown sensitivity to the need to ensure equal treatment of those who belong to nomadic groups and who are, for the most part, Italian citizens. Local and regional authorities in Rome and Florence, for example, have worked to provide sanitation to Gypsy campsites. Approximately 4,000 Gypsies reside in the greater Rome area. Most of them live in precarious and unhygienic conditions. As a result of the increasing influx of legal and illegal immigration from Africa and East European countries, these issues are being examined with greater attention by the general public and by political parties. Employees of international organizations from third-world countries living in Rome report more difficulty than their European colleagues in finding housing. The Government funds nonprofit organizations that provide social assistance to third-world nationals living in Italy. In this area, the Government also works closely with the Roman Catholic Church, which has been a powerful public voice condemning discrimination against, and mistreatment of, minorities and which supports social assistance groups and activities. Recently enacted changes in the Special Statute for Alto Adige (along the Austrian border) give German speakers there added safeguards against alleged risks to their culture and language. Some in the Italian-speaking community in the Alto Adige claimed reverse discrimination. The German-speaking community is also pressing local authorities to change the names of several towns from the Italian wording to what they claim were the original German versions prior to World War I. The Government and Parliament began to discuss revision of the 1990 Law on Immigration, including the possible introduction of a quota system and the application of stricter administrative controls. There are about 35,000 Jews in Italy. Occasional anti-Semitic incidents, such as the desecration of tombs in a Jewish cemetery and the appearance of anti-Semitic graffiti, continued to occur during the year. The police suspect that perpetrators are members of the various anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi groups that have emerged recently. However, only one person was caught in the act of desecrating Jewish graves and arrested on charges of ethnic and religious discrimination.
People with Disabilities
There are no restrictions on employment of physically disabled persons in Italy, and since 1968 employers employing 35 or more persons have been required, with limited exemptions, to staff 15 percent of their work force with disabled persons. In practice, however, only about 4 percent of the work force in these firms are disabled. A comprehensive framework law was adopted in 1992 covering assistance, social integration, and rights of handicapped persons. The Labor Inspectorate of the Ministry of Labor enforces this law; employers who do not obey the law are fined and obliged to comply; repeat offenders receive higher penalties. Protection against discrimination in education has been guaranteed at all levels since 1977, and this was successfully defended in the courts in 1987. The 1992 Law on the Rights of Handicapped Persons reinforced this guarantee. A 1971 law calls for physical accessibility for the disabled to public buildings; compliance in schools and other public buildings is thus far not universal.
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
The Workers' Statute of 1970 provides for the right to establish trade unions, to join unions, and to carry out union activities in the workplace. Trade unions are not government controlled, and the Constitution fully protects the right to strike, which is frequently exercised. In practice, the three major labor confederations possess status and influence (in comparison to the smaller independent unions) for reasons that go well beyond their membership size. They have strong historical ties to two of the three major political parties and administer certain social welfare services for the Government, which compensates them accordingly. Moreover, the Workers' Statute favors the three confederations to the extent that it is difficult for small unions, including the so-called Base Committees (Cobas) at the shop floor level, to obtain recognition. In July a tripartite agreement was reached, which, among other things, laid the basis for election of unitary union representation (RSU) in all workplaces. If enacted into law, two-thirds of the RSU would be elected by all employees in the workplace and one-third nominated by those unions that signed the National Labor Contract affecting those workers. A 1990 law limits the right to strike in essential public services such as transportation, sanitation, and health. Public sector workers, including those covered by these restrictions, engaged in demonstrations and a partial general strike in early 1993 in support of union demands in national tripartite negotiations and in conjunction with a Europe-wide day of action called by the European Trade Union Confederation. However, minimum services in essential public services were provided. Italian unions associated freely and actively with international trade union organizations. The Workers' Statute (Law 300 of 1970) prohibits employers in firms employing more than 15 workers (more than 5 in agriculture) from taking retribution against strikers other than deduction of wages for the duration of the strike. The Government enforces this effectively. Hiring of personnel to replace strikers is effectively prohibited.
b. The Right To Organize and Bargain Collectively
The right of workers to organize and bargain collectively is protected by the Constitution and is freely practiced. Labor-management relations are governed by legislation, custom, collective bargaining agreements, and labor contracts. In July an agreement was signed by representatives of labor, management, and government laying down a new collective bargaining structure. All future national labor contracts are to be of 4 years' duration. Wage increases for the first 2 years are to respect guidelines established through consultations at the national level; wages may be renegotiated after 2 years. Company-level bargaining on issues not covered in the national contract is to take place once during the life of the agreement at a time to be specified in the national contract. Company-level wage increases are to depend on performance of the firm. National collective bargaining agreements in practice apply to all workers, regardless of union membership. The July agreement called for further legislation to make these agreements legally binding on all firms in the pertinent sector. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination by employers against union members and organizers. Judges of first instance (Pretore) resolve complaints of discrimination. A 1990 law encourages workers in small enterprises (less than 16 employees) to join unions and requires "just cause" for dismissals from employment. Employers found guilty of antiunion discrimination are required to reinstate workers fired for union activities if the firm has more than 15 employees. In firms with less than that number, the employer has the option to reinstate or pay compensation up to approximately $15,000 at the year-end exchange rate (2.5 million lira) or 6 months' wages, whichever is larger. In special cases, this can be increased to 10 or 15 months' wages. Protection of worker rights in the case of transfer of company ownership is provided in a law that complies with a European Community (EC) directive on the subject. The law requires that the unions of both the former and the new owners' companies be consulted in advance of the sale and that no worker benefits be lost as a result of the transfer. There are no export processing zones.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
Forced or compulsory labor is prohibited by law and does not exist in practice.
d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children
The law provides that no child under 15 years of age may be employed (with some specified exceptions). The Ministry of Labor, having consulted with the labor organizations, may, as an exception, authorize the employment of children over 12 years of age on specific jobs. There are also specific restrictions on employment in various dangerous or unhealthful occupations up to the age of 18 for men and 21 for women. In general, minimum age laws are effectively enforced. However, some employment of children occurs in the shadow economy, particularly in the agricultural sector in the less prosperous southern parts of Italy.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
There is no minimum wage set under Italian law; basic wage and salary levels are set forth in collective bargaining agreements. National collective bargaining agreements contain minimum standards to which individual employment contracts must conform. In the absence of agreement between the parties, the courts may step in to determine fair wages on the basis of practice in related activities or related collective bargaining agreements. Working time and safety standards are established by law and buttressed and extended in collective labor contracts. The Basic Law of 1923 provides for a maximum workweek of 48 hours no more than 6 days per week and 8 hours per day. The 8-hour day may be exceeded for some special categories. Most collective bargaining agreements provide for a 36- to 38-hour week. Overtime may not exceed 2 hours per day or an average of 12 hours per week. Basic health and safety standards and guidelines for compensation for on-the-job injuries are set forth in an extensive body of law and regulations. While 13 of the EC's directives on safety and health were incorporated into Italian law in 1991, 8 had not yet been implemented in late 1993. Most of these health and safety standards are exceeded in collective bargaining agreements. Enforcement of health and safety regulations is entrusted to labor inspectors, who are either employees of local health units or of the Ministry of Labor and have the same status as judicial police officers. Inspectors make periodic visits to companies to ensure observance of safety regulations. Violators may be fined or even imprisoned; it is common for Italian judges to fine employers guilty of infractions. Trade unions also play an important role in reporting safety violations to inspectors. Coverage is hampered by the inadequate number of inspectors. Union sources claim that many companies fail to keep records on potential health risks in their plants, as required by law. Because of high unemployment, there is pressure on workers to accept unsafe conditions. There are many substandard workplaces, especially in the south. Following a serious accident at a refinery in Sicily in June, the Government decided to set up a special agency to deal with industrial accidents. At year's end, this unit had not begun to function.