In Spain, new rules limiting fixed-term contracts led to a boom in permanent contracts in 2022, but Italy is going in the opposite direction. The Meloni government is preparing to liberalize fixed-time contracts once again: the limits introduced by the Conte 1 government with the Dignity Decree will be gone.
The government is ready to publish the new rules by the beginning of February. The 12-month limit for fixed-time contracts without a specified cause will be extended; it is rumored to go back to 36 months, as in the days of the Renzi government and Minister Poletti, with the possibility of an additional 12 months to be decided by collective agreements. Allowed causes for renewals of such contracts, which are now basically tied to the replacement of workers and temporary increases in activity, will also be expanded.
“Enough with thinking of flexibility only in a negative light. The fixed-term contract is not in itself a form of precarization,” insisted Labor Minister Elvira Calderone, who seems to have returned to the narratives from the days of Leopolda. Her view fails to reckon with the fact that in 2021 (according to data from the INAPP report), only 14.8 percent of new employment contracts were permanent, while 69.8 percent were fixed-term – numbers that prompted the report’s authors to say the Italian labor market was “trapped in precariousness.”
Not to mention the numerous cases in which the Constitutional Court has already intervened regarding Renzi’s Jobs Act, calling on Parliament to legislate in a more worker-friendly manner regarding compensation in cases of dismissals without just cause.
The CGIL union was indignant: “We do not agree with the idea of liberalizing fixed-term contracts. We need to change the wrongheaded laws that have been passed in recent years. No more precariousness and no more favoring precarious hiring,” stressed Maurizio Landini.
“In the face of abuse, the focus should be on reducing flexible forms, not increasing them,” added CGIL confederal secretary Tania Scacchetti.
UIL’s confederal secretary Ivana Veronese agreed, calling for a meeting with the labor minister “to discuss these issues as soon as possible.”
CISL struck a much more cautious tone, urging the government “not to alter the balance that has been reached after the Draghi government allowed union agreements to decide on extending 12-month contracts.”
The M5S, which made the Dignity Decree a flagship issue along with the citizenship income, is rising up in protest: “We have very low wages, starvation wages. Now this government wants to dismantle the Dignity Decree as well,” attacked Giuseppe Conte. “So, in addition to vouchers, we will have even more widespread precariousness. After the abolition of the citizenship income, we are moving towards a situation of a serious social and employment emergency.”
Within the PD, the topic is the object of acrimonious debate: the internal left of Orlando and Provenzano is for repealing the Jobs Act in all its forms, restoring Article 18 and limiting fixed-time contracts on the Spanish model, provisions which were part of the election program of the whole PD; but the “reformist” wing that supports Bonaccini is much more cautious, and it is avoiding demonizing the Jobs Act reform, which everyone in the PD voted for and supported.
From the left wing of the Dems, Marco Sarracino, a 30-year deputy, accused: “The Meloni government’s strategy of attacking the rights of workers continues, which has chosen the path of greater precariousness and flexibility of work.” “We are looking at a clear reversal of the process that was started with the last government, which aimed at interventions to make stable contracts more advantageous. They will find firm opposition from the PD.”
Among the Dems, there are those who are gleefully pointing out that “the fact that the right-wing government wants to return to the Jobs Act proves that those measures were against workers; regardless of what those in the party who are still defending them are saying.”
Also opposed are the Left and Greens. “The Minister of Labor says that fixed-time contracts do not lead to precariousness. Try asking the more than 3 million people who are working under these conditions,” said Giovanni Paglia. “Ask them what it’s like to live on a contract that in one in three cases lasts less than a month, and in one in 10 only a day. This garbage is unworthy of the Constitution.”