To restart the labour market, social dialogue will be crucial in identifying effective active labour policies

by Giacinto Favalli

The rules that have been progressively enacted to stem the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic cannot be considered adequate and sufficient from a medium and long-term point of view. In terms of labour law, the most dramatic consequences of the pandemic today are those deriving from the reduction of economic and productive activities, particularly in the catering, trade and tourism sectors. This situation generates enormous pressure on social security payments and when the prohibition on dismissal is repealed, it will certainly cause further job loss. This also given the objective and urgent need of companies to implement processes of reorganisation and restructuring aimed at protecting their competitiveness on the national and global market.

According to the CNEL, then, if in general the epidemic has worsened the conditions of the labour market, young people and women have paid the highest price of the crisis.

The ban on dismissals temporarily protected permanent employees, but not flexible contract holders. In fact, the number of employees fell by over 400,000 units, most of whom hold expired and non-renewed fixed-term contracts.

Therefore, the scenario appears to be very critical.

In this context, the range of options to favour a recovery in employment or a containment of the reduction in jobs will probably be broad and will require effective and coordinated measures not only at the level of rational use of resources related to the so-called Recovery Plan, but also of trade union relations. In fact, it will no longer be just a question of seeing labour law as a welfare key, to protect workers in the workplace and in the execution and termination of the relationship, but it will be necessary to make choices capable of supporting the economy and labour demand, identifying, through social dialogue, possibly shared solutions.

The current pandemic crisis therefore constitutes an opportunity to seriously reflect, among other things, on active labour policies which have been ineffective for too many years, with a logic of real support on both the demand and supply side. Financial support, such as incentives, tax relief and similar measures already tested in the past, will have a key role in relaunching the economy (e.g. the construction sector).

In this perspective, an important contribution may also come from the potential for increasing employment deriving from the growing endeavour of protecting the environment and hydro-geological structure.

The same question itself represents a possibility since it is conceivable to develop the ability to attract national and international productive investments in Southern Italy through appropriate economic policies and, in my opinion, on a stricter labour law level, the revision of the wage uniformity currently envisaged by the NCBA, despite the presence of a different cost of living.

It should also be noted that the epidemiological emergency has certainly drawn more attention to the problems of safety in the workplace and flexibility. It has also highlighted the potential of some tools that were originally neglected, or even viewed with suspicion, such as remote working.

The new positive evaluation of agile working should also bring with it, more generally, a rethinking of the logics traditionally linked to the evaluation of hourly work performance towards a concept of result obligation.

The same placement of working hours throughout the day should be the subject of a rethinking aimed at identifying, where possible, a different articulation of the beginning and end of the working day. One which is now recommended by health needs and related difficulties connected to means of transport, but with also the perspective of sustainable development in relation to the issue of pollution.

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