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Journal Article

Industrial Relations in Italy in the Twenty-First Century


Baccaro,  Lucio
Politische Ökonomie von Wachstumsmodellen, MPI for the Study of Societies, Max Planck Society;
Département de Sociologie, Université de Genève, Switzerland;

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Pulignano, V., Carrieri, D., & Baccaro, L. (2018). Industrial Relations in Italy in the Twenty-First Century. Employee Relations, 40(4), 654-673. doi:10.1108/ER-02-2017-0045.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0002-0380-9
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to reflect on the developments which have characterized Italy’s industrial relations from post-war Fordism to neo-liberal hegemony and recent crisis, with a particular focus on the major changes occurred in the twenty-first century, especially those concerning concertative (tripartite) policy making between the government, the employers’ organizations and the trade unions. Design/methodology/approach This study is a conceptual paper which analysis of main development trends. Findings Italy’s industrial relations in the twenty-first century are characterized by ambivalent features which are the heritage of the past. These are summarized as follows: “collective autonomy” as a classical source of strength for trade unions and employers’ organization, on the one hand. On the other hand, a low level of legislative regulation and weak institutionalization, accompanied by little engagement in a generalized “participative-collaborative” model. Due to the instability in the socio-political setting in the twenty-first century, unions and employers encounter growing difficulties to affirm their common points of view and to build up stable institutions that could support cooperation between them. The result is a clear reversal of the assumptions that had formed the classical backdrop of the paradigm of Italy’s “political exchange.” This paradigm has long influenced the way in which the relationships between employers, trade unions and the state were conceived, especially during 1990s and, to some extent, during 2000s, that is the development of concertative (tripartite) policy making. However, since the end of 2000s, and particularly from 2010s onwards national governments have stated their intention to act independently of the choices made by the unions (and partially the employers). The outcome is the eclipse of concertation. The paper explores how the relationships among the main institutional actors such as the trade unions (and among the unions themselves), the employers, and the state and how politics have evolved, within a dynamic socio-political and economic context. These are the essential factors needed to understand Italy’s industrial relations in the twenty-first century. Originality/value It shows that understanding the relationship among the main institutional actors such as the trade unions (and among the unions themselves), the employers and the state and their politics is essential to understand the change occurred in contemporary Italy’s industrial relations.