Italy's recovery plan hits bumpy road as unions threaten strike action

Italy’s speedy public works recovery plan hit road bump

Business News

The Italian government drafted a decree to accelerate public works in line with EU rules for claiming pandemic recovery funds. Unfortunately, the recovery plan prompted strike threats from trade unions and dissention from within the ruling coalition.

Rome’s Recovery Plan, submitted to Brussels last month, included a pledge to pass legislation by May 20 to simplify bureaucratic procedures. This is the first of a raft of reforms needed to release more than €200billion in grants and cheap loans.

Hostile reaction to recovery plan

The deadline has been pushed back to the end of the month. However, a draft of the so-called Simplification Decree received a hostile reaction.

The unions and the co-ruling Democratic Party say it will reduce safety at work, increase illegality and could put at risk Italy’s landscape and artistic heritage.

One of the main points of contention is a measure making it easier for firms winning public contracts to sub-contract out work. This would reduce the legal responsibilities of the main contractor. The unions say this would lead to lower wages and greater exploitation of workers.

“What the government is doing is indecent,” said Maurizio Landini, head of the largest trade union confederation, the CGIL. “If it doesn’t change tack, we will consider all forms of protest, none excluded,” he told La Repubblica. They threaten co-ordinated strikes with Italy’s other main unions.

Paola De Micheli, from the co-ruling Democratic Party, warned deregulating public works would “open cracks that the mafia will get into”.

The government said it is willing to address concerns before the final approval of the draft.

Italy tries to streamline bureaucracy

Over the years, Italy has passed numerous laws with the aim of streamlining its torturous bureaucracy. There has been little tangible effect. The latest decree follows Conte’s simplification decree, not even a year ago, which he called “the mother of all reforms”.

Of course, the stakes are considerably higher now at billions of euros. Regardless, there needs to be a balance between simplifying procedures and taking unacceptable shortcuts.

Culture Minister Dario Franceschini, also of the Democratic Party, raised his own concerns over the 45-page draft of the simplification decree. He said the government cannot put Italy’s landscape and artistic heritage at risk for the sake of streamlining procedures.

He also said his ministry will help accelerate approval of priority projects in Italy’s Recovery Plan, “but we cannot dismantle safeguards”.

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