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Renzi tells it as it is.... PDF Print E-mail
Nov 07, 2014 at 09:43 AM

Image Last week, Italian premier Matteo Renzi decided to tell Italian youngsters the bitter truth, and that is that in today’s Italian economy there is no longer such a thing as a permanent position. The “posto fisso” was a reality during and after the boom years of the postwar Italian economy and has remained the dream of most Italians but, alas, those days are gone forever. As elsewhere in the world, Italians will have to deal with the fact that when the economic going gets bad, the may end up losing their jobs.

 

Renzi’s comments came in the midst of his attempts to reform part of the country’s rather restrictive labor laws, in particular softening the current rules regarding redundancies and firings. The bill that is soon to come before the lower house of Parliament (it has already been passed by the Senate), known as the Jobs Act (for inexplicable reasons, Renzi uses English for this and other draft laws even though there are plenty of Italian words he could use) has created tensions with Italy’s unions and on several recent occasions in  police and protesters have clashed over this issue.

However,  the young Italian leader intends to push on: "We are going to keep going because our aim isn't to wage a political battle, but to get Italy going again and we won't give up a millimeter on this", said Renzi who last May won an endorsement for his ambitious reform agenda when his centre-left Democratic Party (PD) polled  over 40% of the vote in European elections. He insists that Italy has reached a "now or never" moment to end its recent economic downslide.

 

Actually, the new law is supposed to offer incentives to business owners to encourage them to hire people long-term rather than with the short-term contracts that have prevailed in recent years, creating uncetainty and anxiery among the relatively few young people who hve actually found jobs. This undoubtedly would give a real boost to the labor market. But to get entrepreneurs to do this, they have to be allowed to lay off excess labor when there is an economic downturn. Article 18 of the 1970 Workers' Statute, originally designed to protect workers against unfair dismissal, has been largely interpreted by Italian magistrates in a very restrictive fashion. The statute has consequently been blamed for scaring off foreign and local investors who don't want to risk saddling themselves with unneeded labor. 

 

The new law is by no means anti-labor says the government. There will be safeguards against unfair dismissal that will increase with seniority and  it will also set a minimum wage and heftier unemployment benefits  "If we do what we are capable of doing, Italy will be the locomotive of Europe in the coming years” says Renzi. "But we have to have the courage to say the time of doing things later is over. It's now or never. That is the sense of urgency my government moves with".

 

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