From the TUC

The global crisis: the view from Italy

21 May 2009, by in Economics, International

I’m at the quadrennial Congress of the CISL, the second largest trade union confederation in Italy. But it could be a different world. I’ve just heard a Minister from a right-wing government endorsing the public sector and an employers’ representative backing social dialogue!

This afternoon there’s a panel session of trade unionists, politicians and employers.

Giulio Tremonti, Finance Minister and an ex-Craxi socialist, says that globalisation couldn’t have been stopped and shouldn’t be stopped – but “it has happened too fast”, with the fall of communism followed swiftly by China and India joining the WTO. He says that the private sector shouldn’t dominate the public sector and vice versa. And although he stressed the need for crisis management to give way to reform, he didn’t dwell on the Tremonti initiative which the G8 is likely to discuss in July, setting global standards for business.

He was followed by the leader of Confindustria, the Italian CBI, Emma Marcegaglia. She was cheered wildly on her arrival (a lot more warmly than the Director-General of the CBI Richard Lambert was when he addressed the TUC Congress last year). She’d probably get an even cooler response from the TUC than Richard did, given her company’s role in making so many steelworkers in Teesside redundant.

Confindustria has just signed a social agreement with CISL and UIL, and with the Berlusconi Government but not with the largest union confederation, CGIL. The split in the union movement has been a major theme at this conference – so we’re waiting to see how CGIL General Secretary Guglielmo Epifani is received, and what his message in, tomorrow. Marcegaglia stressed her support for social dialogue as the best way out of the crisis.