Published: 22/03/2020

Unions in Italy, the European country hardest hit to date by the COVID-19 pandemic, have mobilized for strong measures to strengthen public health services and protect worker health and safety, employment and incomes since the onset of the crisis. When many firms continued normal operations following the March 8 lockdown without special protective measures, the unions demanded action.

On March 14, the three national union confederations, leading employer organizations and the government signed a protocol on measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus in workplaces.

These include: maximizing remote working; suspension of activities inside companies which are not essential for production and minimizing movement during operations; rigorous sanitation and protective procedures; negotiated paid leave. Unions and employers who are continuing operations are encouraged to negotiate company specific collective agreements including crisis measures. Workplace committees are to be established to oversee compliance with the protocol, which also includes measures on monitoring and protecting employee health and safety at work and the role of health and safety representatives.

The protocol was followed by a March 16 ‘Care-Italy’ decree which mobilizes financial support for the hardest hit sectors and funnels additional resources to public health services. This too contains employment specific measures, including a 60-day ban on collective and individual dismissals on economic grounds and a one-off EUR 600 payment to certain categories of workers, including agricultural workers.