Commerce, workers in the streets to renew contracts that have expired 4 years ago. Businesses: link renewals to productivity

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The passing of the months and the progress of the negotiation dialogue for the renewal of the contracts of the tertiary sector, distribution and services, of modern organized distribution and of cooperative distribution, have not led to the renewal that the workers who are asking for they took to the streets with well-attended events in Rome, Milan, Naples, Palermo and Cagliari.

They decided to strike on a very significant day for the sector, in the middle of the most important period for takings. The 4 different contracts that Filcams, Fisascat and Uiltucs sign with each of the employers’ associations, Confcommercio, Federdistribuzione, Confesercenti and Coop, expired in 2019: at the end of last year there was a bridge agreement which guaranteed a one-off payment of 350 euros and a deposit on future increases of 30 euros, considered the average reference level. However, the understanding, at least on the trade union side, was that the contracts affecting almost 3.5 million workers would then be renewed, to which should be added those in tourism, collective and commercial catering, travel agencies and spa companies they have been waiting for renewal for an average of 3 years and bring the count of workers with expired contracts in the 2 sectors above 5 million. If negotiations continued in trade and there was a bridge agreement, in tourism there was no the negotiations never really started.

The strike and the media wave

The strike did not cause the closure of shops, but organizational disruptions, especially in larger companies where there is a union presence. Federdistribuzione, which represents the larger companies, explained yesterday that the members were committed to ensuring that activities were carried out regularly, limiting inconvenience. According to an initial estimate by the Federation, in associated companies, membership was between 7 and 8%. The hope remains “to reach the renewal in the shortest possible time with balanced solutions for both workers and companies in the sector”. The sector, more generally, however, is characterized by very small company sizes. If we take Confcommercio, most have fewer than 15 employees and in companies of this size there is no unionisation, so much so that the association explains that the rate of unionisation does not reach double figures. However, the strike had significant media coverage, with well-attended demonstrations in various cities, including Rome, Milan, Naples, Cagliari and Palermo. After the square, however, we now need to return to that table where about ten days ago Confcommercio and Confesercenti attempted to make an attack, without however reaching the objective of signing the contract within the year. And to avoid the media square. Federdistribuzione has also sent signals of openness and desire to reach an agreement

The choices of the Coops

The cooperative distribution has chosen to move in a different way, giving a tranche of increase to be considered a new advance on future contractual increases. From Coop they explain that «for reasons including historical reasons and company characteristics, Coop has higher labor costs and recognizes greater guarantees in terms of, for example, sickness and welfare. The workforce is made up of over 57 thousand employees, of which over 94% have permanent employment contracts and around 50% full time”. After the bridge agreement of December 2022, in November of this year, given the state of the negotiations, always very tense, «it was decided in November this time unilaterally to provide a 30 euro gross monthly increase to the re-measured level IV on the other levels of classification that the workers received in the December paycheck”. This is a total of 30 million euros. After the strike, the Coops also hope to resume negotiations.

Productivity and automation

In fact, the strike will further extend the renewal time because now it is difficult to settle in a few days and move on to get to the renewal. On the one hand, the union would risk not being credible and will have to give way in relation to what it claims, while on the other hand, the companies cannot grant a negotiating table immediately after a protest which comes at such an important moment for the sector.

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