The economic globalization taking place in international markets in Italy comes from the process of deregulation which is also under way in the electricity and gas energy sectors. This is due firstly to the application of EC directives to create single markets for electricity and gas and secondly, to a choice made by Italian governments and parliaments up to 1992 to take the direct running of businesses away from the state and local governments by turning them into share companies and the later privatization of public companies which is still going on.
In 1995 the Italian parliament established an independent controlling authority for electricity and gas whose job was to promote competition among businesses, protect the consumer, create standards for the quality of service, and fix tariffs.
The European directives for the deregulation of the electricity (July 1996) and gas markets (August 1998) were acknowledged by the Italian government and parliament in March 1999 and February 2000 respectively.
In both cases, the confederate and professional unions in the context of the orchestration policy with the government heavily influenced the creation of these laws, helping to improve them both form the industrial and tariff point of view and the social one creating cohesion between the depressed and most advances areas in the country.
However, the European directives have been applied differently in individual national states, obliging European service unions to face up to the new experience of a common energy market tangled up with phenomena of the economic globalization peculiar to this era.
This must certainly be the first ground to break even between European, North American and national unions to get rid of the contradictions that different openness applied by different national systems risks to generate to the detriment of workers.
It is necessary, in our opinion, to define a set of common rules above all in the interest of the protection and rights of workers, in order that policies of social and salary withdrawal policies can be avoided in individual countries. The trend towards the so-called social dumping which companies tend to adopt to protect themselves within the domestic market and expand abroad should be obstructed.
In Italy, as you most probably know, the application of European directives has overthrown public monopolies and brought about the introduction of competition in electricity (Enel) and gas (Eni-Snam) production.
With regard to this I would like to remind you what we have done and what we are doing to protect workers in the contract and pension areas :
1. A year ago, in September 1999, we reached an important agreement with Enel the electricity board and ex state monopoly and the Industry Ministry about occupational, contractual and social security guaranties for employees interested in the sale of electricity plants. This agreement the so-called social clause - established certain obligations for future buyers of the three new production companies created by the cession of 15,000 megawatts by Enel. Whoever buys must maintain the activity of electricity production, modernize the plant both technologically and environmentally, present industrial plans which guarantee job security, and stipulate a new national contract for the whole electricity and private sector.
2. We have recently signed an agreement (in may 2000) with Enel a real pilot agreement in Italy about permanent training to convert professional resources within the company in order to deal with the employment impact deriving from liberalization processes, business efficiency and the introduction of new technology thus avoiding redundancies and taxes for the general public. A similar agreement has also been made with Italgas, the biggest private gas distribution company in Italy, and with the local government electricity boards.
3. We are working on the creation of just 2 sector contracts (the electricity one and the gas-water one) to take place of the present 8 national public and private contracts, all of which ran out almost two year ago. Negotiations are going on at the moment between the Italian Entrepreneurs Associations within the electricity sector (95,000 employees), which are particularly demanding. Negotiations with employers in the gas-water sector (40,000 employers) have still to start.
The sector contract is an irreversible choice for us and will help not only to protect and guarantee using the same rules all the employees both those who work for state companies as well as private ones but will also - and it is important that the public is aware of this avoid competition between companies being played out only on work costs rather than on efficiency, quality of service and lower tariffs for the public. Incidentally, the public, due to the high price of petrol, has still not seen any effects of liberalization on diminishing of tariffs or improved quality of service, at least in Italy.
As far as Europe is concerned, as you know, the governments of our countries decided at the Council at Lisbon last March to accelerate liberalization. We are worried that this could cause a further negative impact on public service and on work. We have asked, as European section of the Public Services International (ISP), heads of state and government to unite at Nice (France) in December in order to take concrete measures to protect jobs.
We have proposed creating a European employment fund for the electricity and gas sectors which will be needed to help manual workers and office employees to create and maintain their jobs (today there have been more than 250,000 jobs lost), to help professional training so as to guarantee a reliable, safe and cheap electricity and gas supply to citizens and companies.
As European and international union we must make sure that our action ensures that the rules and rights of workers go hand in hand with the liberalization process which is under way.
With this in mind it is important institutionalize these meetings. With the agreement of the member companies of E7, we should establish today that a meeting with union representatives should be put on the agenda and carried out during our next meetings.
Thank you for listening.