|05ROME2148||2005-06-22 11:12:00||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy Rome|
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available. 221112Z Jun 05
C O N F I D E N T I A L ROME 002148
1. (U) This is an action request, please see para 10.
2. (C) Summary: Italian unions representing civilians who
work for the U.S. military on Italian bases expressed to
Embassy Labor Counselor extreme frustration over the
inability to conclude a Conditions of Employment agreement
for the last two years. They feel the JCPC is leaderless,
unresponsive and seemingly powerless to make decisions. To
achieve results, they are considering strikes and appeals to
the Ministry of Labor for mediation and the Ministry of
Defense for political support. Embassy believes some
immediate response that offers the unions a commitment for
serious negotiating sessions would forestall this appeal for
mediation. Given the current climate, we urge careful
consideration of proposals for additional RIFs at the Naples
Hospital. Embassy requests NAVEUR guidance on how to respond
to the unions. End Summary
3. (SBU) Mario Piovesan (Fisascat/CISL) and Emilio
Fargonoli (Uiltucs/UIL), national representatives of the two
unions that represent Italians working for the U.S. military
on Italian bases, requested a meeting with Embassy Labor
Counselor June 16 to convey their extreme frustration with
the lack of progress in the Conditions of Employment (COE)
negotiations. They characterized the state of union-U.S.
military relations as being &in crisis8 over a COE that
expired in September 2003.
4. (SBU) Union complaints centered on their sense that the
Joint Civilian Personnel Committee (JCPC) is leaderless,
unresponsive and seemingly powerless to make any decisions.
As examples, they cited the infrequency of high-level
meetings, months-long delays in receiving responses to
letters, and responses they characterized as being uniformly
negative with no suggestions of compromise. Fargonoli said
the JCPC team leaders made a wonderful first impression with
the unions but have since been absent from key meetings or
unwilling/unable to offer compromises. They sensed that the
U.S. negotiators were not adequately focused on Italian
negotiations. Union discussions on the issue of RIFs also,
they believe, revealed a lack of coordination between
military commands and civilian JCPC members.
5. (SBU) The unions are particularly annoyed by the JCPC
decision to refer COE issues to a sub-committee that, in
their view, lacks the political clout to make decisions.
Piovesan and Fargonoli feel that the sub-committee is just a
technical body that needs clearance from the JCPC to make
decisions. When they try to approach the JCPC, however, they
are bounced back to the sub-committee. They increasingly
feel this is a tactic that reflects deliberate USG policy to
delay progress on a new COE. Ideally, they would like an
Italian representative on the JCPC.
6. (SBU) Expressing frustration, Piovesan and Fargonoli
said the unions would be forced to approach the Ministry of
Labor for mediation and the Ministry of Defense for political
support. They will also consider strike action. Without
explicitly saying it, the two also intimated they would work
the issue through both media and civilian political channels.
Labor Counselor thanked them for sharing their concerns and
asked that the unions hold off on any further action until
the Embassy could convey union concerns to the appropriate
U.S. military authorities. She stressed that the Embassy was
not a party to the negotiations and that our role was only to
7. (SBU) Under Italian law, the Ministry of Labor can
mediate differences on disputes over national collective
labor contracts between labor representatives and employers
when requested by one or both of the parties after
negotiations fail to produce a contract. The MOL Department
for Safeguarding Conditions of Employment summons the parties
and suggests feasible solutions for a compromise. There is
no standard procedure or timetable for the mediation process,
and the MOL,s proposals are not binding on the parties.
8. (SBU) Laborcouns also asked about the status of RIFs
that have been discussed with unions since February 2005.
Piovesan said the unions were generally satisfied with
progress on this issue; however, the status of five workers
scheduled to be RIF,d in Sigonella and one in Naples had yet
to be finally determined. Embassy did not raise the proposed
additional eight RIFs at the Navy Hospital in Naples, and the
union representatives did not indicate they had heard any
rumors about the new RIFs.
9. (C) Comment: The union representatives exhibited more
frustration than anger over the lack of progress on COE
negotiations. They appear to want to negotiate but feel they
have no credible and focused interlocutors in the JCPC.
Given deteriorating economic conditions (Italy is now
officially in recession) and an increasingly unsettled
national political scene, we fully expect the unions will
call strikes and make their case through unhelpful media
intervention. Given this climate, we are concerned about the
effect of proposals for an additional eight RIFs at the
Naples Hospital. We predict the unions will react very
negatively to what they will see as an uncoordinated surprise
by U.S. personnel managers.
10. (C) By engaging the MOL in mediation efforts, they are
seeking to bring political pressure to bear on the U.S. side.
Historically, in mediations the MOL has offered compromises
that favor workers over employers. Although such a
compromise proposal would not be binding, unions clearly
believe it would strengthen their bargaining position with
the U.S. With upcoming elections, we cannot preclude the
possibility that some MOL personnel could publicize the issue
for political gain. Our sense is that some immediate
attention (perhaps in the form of phone calls and letters to
national CISL and UIL representatives) offering commitments
for serious COE negotiating sessions in the near future
(i.e., the new few months) could forestall a request for MOL
mediation. Action Request: Embassy stands ready to support
NAVEUR,s decision on the way forward and awaits guidance on
how to respond to the unions.
2005ROME02148 - Classification: CONFIDENTIAL