The Lower House on Thursday gave final approval to the government’s decree to simplify Italy’s labour-market regulations. It passed with 279 votes in favour, 143 against and three abstentions. The decree has come under intense fire from trade unions, which say it will further weaken job security. Premier Matteo Renzi’s executive had to put the decree to three confidence votes to speed up its passage through parliament and quash dissent over the measure from within the ruling coalition.
The legislation is part of a drive to simplify Italy’s current myriad of different work contracts and benefits and help encourage firms to take on workers, especially young ones.
Unemployment in Italy has reached a record high of 12.7% with over four in 10 of under-25s who are on the labour market jobless.
The government amended the decree to meet demands from some small centre-right minority parties on which the current government depends to make it more business friendly.
The amendments included a provision that fines companies for employing more than 20% of their workforce under short-term contracts, whereas the version of the decree that passed the Lower House on April 24 would have obliged companies to permanently hire any workers exceeding the 20% limit.
The decree includes changes to set employers a limit of five temporary contracts that they can offer new staff members in their first three years with the company.
The unions and the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement (M5S) said this cements the chronic state of job insecurity many new entrants to the labour market endure in Italy.
M5S MPs staged a number of attention-grabbing protests against the legislation, including handcuffing themselves in parliament during one vote.
Renzi said his aim is to change the labour system, giving workers gradually increasingly levels of job security the longer they are with a firm.
The goal is to prevent employees being discouraged from hiring staff by labour regulations that make it very hard to get rid of workers once they are on the books.
Many economists say the current system has produced a sort of labour-market “apartheid”, with workers in steady jobs, usually people who are well into their careers, enjoying high levels of labour rights and job security, while young workers are often in precarious plights.