Last Updated: Friday, 19 January 2018, 17:46 GMT

2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Italy

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 6 June 2012
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Italy, 6 June 2012, available at: [accessed 21 January 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: 60,551,000
Capital: Rome

ILO Core Conventions Ratified:

29 (Forced Labour (1930))
87 (Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise (1948))
98 (Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining (1949))
100 (Equal Remuneration for Work of Equal Value (1951))
105 (Abolition of Forced Labour (1957))
111 (Discrimination in Employment and Occupation (1958))
138 (Minimum Age for Employment (1973))
182 (Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (1999))

Reported Violations – 2012

Murders: none reported
Attempted Murders: none reported
Threats: none reported
Injuries: none reported
Arrests: none reported
Imprisonments: none reported
Dismissals: none reported

Documented violations – actual number of cases may be higher


Although trade union rights are well protected in law, those rights are not enjoyed by the majority of Italy's migrant workers, many of whom work in slave like conditions. Essential service rules are used to undermine the right to strike. There was good news in the public sector, where an agreement was reached allowing workplace representation elections to go ahead. The overall decline in the economic and social situation led to the resignation late in the year of the Berlusconi government.


In 2011, unemployment increased significantly, and in particular among youth, with peaks of 39% in the southern regions.

Financial speculation, contributed to the collapse of the state budget, with the national debt at 120% of GDP.

The government reacted with heavy cuts to state expenditures, reducing social services and imposing heavy sacrifices primarily on workers, pensioners and local authorities.

In November, the Berlusconi government resigned and a new government of "national coalition" was supported by a large majority in Parliament (95%), with the main goal of avoiding the state's financial meltdown.

The first reforms introduced by the Monti Government targeted the pension system by introducing a criteria of 41-42 years worked to receive a pension (now based on a pro-rata of contributions) and raising the retirement age to 67 for both men and women progressively since 2013 to 2022.

As a result, hundreds of thousands of elderly workers, dismissed from companies before the approval of the new law (on many occasions according to collective bargaining agreements), find themselves both without a job and without a pension.

Trade union rights in law

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. The law also prohibits anti-union discrimination.

The right to reinstatement is only applicable where an employer has more than 15 workers in a unit or more than 60 workers in the country, but the Government announced a "labour market reform" reducing the scope of reinstatement for illegitimate individual dismissals. This measure was the three main national centres.

The right to collective bargaining is also guaranteed, and concluded collective agreements are legally enforceable. The Berlusconi Government, however inserted a provision in a budgetary law (art. 8 of L. 138/2011) allowing company and territorial level agreements to deviate from the Sectoral National Collective Agreements that regulate the working rights and conditions in Italy. This provision was adopted despite an agreement between the social partners (three main trade union confederations and the main employers' organisation, Confindustria) on 28 June to respect national collective agreements, not to resort to legal derogations, and establishing common criteria to reach agreements at company and/or workplace level.

The right to strike is enshrined in the Constitution, which stipulates that the right shall be exercised according to law.

Link to additional detailed information regarding the legislation on the ITUC website here

In practice

Collective bargaining rights: Violations of freedom of association or collective bargaining rights are possible when employers choose to negotiate and sign agreements with particular unions, regardless of their representativeness.

Collective bargaining in the public sector:

The right to strike is problematic with regards to essential services as the duration of and the reasons for a strike must be announced in advance.

In 2009, the government froze public salaries for 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 extend the retirement age for female public servants from 60 to 65, again without prior consultation. 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.

In 2011, the adoption of the European semester and of the Euro Pact Plus by the European Council has imposed severe measures on the Italian budget in order to reduce the debt. This decision has brought a renewed focus on cuts in public spending, with further reductions of precarious contracts in the public sector, particularly at the national administration level leading to the loss of as many as 35,000 jobs.

Work place representatives' elections: During 2011 an agreement was finally reached by the main national trade union centres with the government to end blocking elections for work place representatives in the public sector.

Migrant Workers:

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, in comparison to 12 months for nationals.

More than 500,000 irregular migrants are still living and working in the black labour market in Italy. Trade unions have denounced systematic violations of human and trade union rights for workers, mainly migrants, under the gang-master system (caporalato). The unions estimate that thousands of workers are subjected to human trafficking and slavery conditions.

In 2011, under pressure from trade union and public campaigns, a new law was approved recognising "caporalato" as a crime punishable with up to six year in prison.

Right to Strike: Until late in 2011, the Berlusconi government was known to make excessive use of essential services as established through ILO jurisprudence to restrict this right.


Violations: FIAT-Chrysler refused in December 2011 to recognise elected representatives of a union, despite their representativeness, and refused to collect union dues on its behalf.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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