Monday, May 31, 2021

A Solution in Search of a Problem? Collective Rights and the Antitrust Labour Exemption in Italy

A Solution in Search of a Problem? Collective Rights and the Antitrust Labour Exemption in Italy


Antonio Aloisi

IE Law School, IE University; European University Institute - Department of Law (LAW)

Elena Gramano

Bocconi Legal Department; Bocconi University School of Law


This chapter examines the Italian legal framework regulating the collective rights of self-employed workers. It seeks to investigate potential conflicts (if any) arising between collective labour rights and the application of competition law and free-market policies to self-employed workers and the fragmented constellation of differentiated personal labour relations that escape binary taxonomies. Its overarching goal is to understand whether and to what extent concerted wage-fixing practices are granted a special (express or implied) immunity at the domestic level. Besides offering concrete examples, we will situate the examination of labour antitrust exemption in the broader picture of the adequacy of the current mechanisms of “collective self-regulation” for “solo”, own account, small-scale, or dependent self-employed workers. However, historical evidence suggests that collective agreements covering the kaleidoscopic and dynamic group of non-standard workers have never been targeted by the Italian competition authority. In Italy self-employed organising is foreseen by the Constitution, long-standing, embedded in collective agreements, and widely acknowledged by the law. Indeed, workers’ initiatives can be seen as a vehicle of social, economic and political transformation.

This chapter is organised as follows. Part 2 presents a general introduction of the regulation of collective rights in the Italian Constitution. Part 3 illustrates case law development, especially at the Constitutional Court level, on whether self-employed workers fall within the personal scope of collective rights. It also argues that several provisions corroborate that the lawmaker often entrusts social partners in regulating specific and meaningful aspects of the working relationship of certain categories of self-employed workers, thus proving that there is no inconsistency between antitrust law and collective regulation of contractual terms. Two arguments run intertwined in part 4. On the one hand, we intend to present a selection of collective agreements for non-standard workers, never called into question by competition authorities, and on the other, we discuss how long-established trade unions have attempted to include non-standard workers in their membership through multiple, not necessarily successful, attempts. This section also presents a selection of practical hurdles that make it difficult to build solidarity amongst non-standard workers and negotiate collectively. Section 5 concludes.

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