The Bill on Industrial Disputes – Its Far-Reaching Importance -Reform of the Senate

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The Economist

Data di pubblicazione: 09/01/1926

The Bill on Industrial Disputes – Its Far-Reaching Importance -Reform of the Senate

«The Economist», 9 gennaio 1926, p. 64

 

Turin, December 31, 1925

 

 

By far the most notable economic event of the past month was the approval by the Chamber of Deputies of a Bill on industiral representation and disputes. The Bill is to be further examined by the Senate; but its passing into law is assured. One of the cardinal principles of the Fascist programme was indeed the elimination of industrial disputes. In fact, strikes, which were rampant in after-war years (18,887,917 days lost in industry in 1919 and 16,398,227 in 1920), had diminished to 7,772,870 lost in 1921 and 6,276,575 in the first ten months of 1922. But if the decrease of the spirit of unrest was already sensible, it is only after October, 1922, that the number of days lost became almost negligible: 309,670 in the last two months of 1922, 295,929 in 1923, and 1,159,271 in 1924. In agriculture strikes have almost disappeared.

 

 

Fascism has always aimed at suppressing class-feuds and substituting for industrial struggles co-operation between capital and labour. The Bill approved by the House of Deputies will put on the Statute-book the principles which were hitherto the practical policy of the present Government. Only one association (sindacato) for every district will be thenceforth recognised as the legal representative of capital and labour; or, rather, one each for the employers and for the employees. Associations of employers must enrol employers of at least a tenth part of the employees occupied in the district; and associations of employees must enrol at least tenth part of the employees similarly occupied in the district. Associations can be organised for the municipality, the province, the region, and the State; but for every district concerned and for every trade or profession only one employers’ and one employees’ association can be officially recognised. Members of the liberal professions (barristers, solicitors, physicians, surgeons, architects, actuaries, &c.) can form themselves into professional associations (collegi, ordini, &c), of which, according to the special law, only one can be recognised in every district. Only those employers or employees can be admitted as members of the recognised associations who have a good political record from the national point of view. This aims at excluding from membership followers of subversive political or social creeds. The president or secretary of each national or regional association or federation of associations must be approved by the Government, or by the prefect if the association or federation is a municipal or a provincial one. The presi­dent or secretary can expel members who become morally or politically unworthy. Associations between soldiers, commissioned and non-commis­sioned officers of the Army and Navy, judges and civil servants in the Home, Foreign Affairs, Justice and Colonies Departments are prohibited. Associations between all other public employees of the State, provinces and municipalities, although they are not prohibited, cannot be legally recognised. Associations other than the one legally recognised in each trade and district can exist de facto, subject to the supervision of the provincial representative of the Government (prefetto), but they have no voice in the discussion and decision of industrial conflicts.

 

 

Powers of the one recognised association of employers and employees are twofold: 1) To make all employers and employees, members and non-members of the association alike, pay annually a contribution to the common fund equal in the case of the former to a day’s wages for every employee on the books, and similarly to a day’s wages per head in the case of employees’ associations. Contributions are compulsorily levied on employees by employers, and paid into the association fund. All employers and employees pay contributions to the common fund, but only members vote. 2) In the event of an industrial dispute, relating to the interpretation of existing agreements, or to the modification of the same, or to new agreements as to wages, hours of labour, &c, the dispute must compulsorily be referred to the Courts of Appeal, of which there are sixteen in Italy. Special sections of the Courts of Appeal will be formed, on which will sit three ma­gistrates and two assessors selected by the president of the Court from a list of experts in the various branches of industry, trade and professions.

 

 

The original Bill made resort to the Court compulsory only in the case of disputes concerning agriculture and public services. In the House of Deputies an interesting debate arose between representatives of Fascist corporations and agriculturists, who advocated immediate extension of compulsory arbitration to industry. After the speech from Signor Mussolini, industrialists yielded, and the principle of universal compulsory arbitration was voted. As a consequence, strikes and lock-outs were vetoed, and offending employers are to be fined 10,000 to 100,000 lire, and offending employees 100 to 1,000 lire each. Verdicts of the Courts of Appeal are binding, not only on members of the associations concerned, but also on non-members, employers and employed in the same industry and district. Employers and employees refusing to accept the verdict of the magistrates are liable to imprisonment from one month to one year, and to a fine from 100 to 5,000 lire.

 

 

The new legislation concerning representation of industrial classes and industrial disputes will have also very important consequences in other branches of Italian life. There has been voted by the House of Deputies a Bill for the constitution of public bodies called “Provincial National Economy Councils”, which will represent in each province, agricultural, industry, trade, and banking interests. It is officially announced that, after the recess, there will be laid on the Senate table a Bill for a reform of the Upper House. Instead of being all nominated for life by the King, Senators will be partly elected from among members of the industrial, trade, professional, and labour classes. In the majority of Italian municipalities (perhaps four-fifths), where the head of the municipality (called podestà) is to be selected by the Government – instead of the local electors – the podestà is to be chosen from lists of professional, industrial, trade, and labour experts. It is highly probable also that in the minority of municipalities, in which elected councils and syndics will be maintained, the electoral right will be conferred no more on the principle of “one man one vote”, but on the principle of professional representation. It appears, therefore, that, before long, employers’ and employees’ legally recognised associations will be paramount, not only for the solution of industrial disputes, but also as the only source of administrative and political power. Municipal councils, provincial, national economic councils, part of the Upper House will owe their origin to trade associations.

 

 

The electoral right will rest not with all men or women catalogued in professions, industries, and trade, but probably on the legally recognised associations as such. The system of voting will be somewhat on the model of that employed in the election of the American President. But there will be this difference: the electors of the American President are a haphazard provisional collection of men, whereas in Italy only members of trade associations will select their presidents, secretaries, and councils, and these permanent bodies will in their turn be responsible for the election of munici­pal and provincial councils and part of the Senate. The Lower House (House of Deputies) will remain the only outcome of the old principle of one-man-one-vote representation; and clearly the principle of professional representation will be in the ascendant. From all points of view, therefore – economic, social, and political – the experiment which is beginning in Italy is bound to be watched all over the world with the utmost interest.

 

 

 

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