Workers Rights In Italy: Article 1 And Article 36 Of The Constitution

Article 36 of the Italian Constitution is a firm guarantee of the national legal system. It comes back to the fore every year on the occasion of the First of May, a holiday that rarely receives the right attention. Yet even on Workers’ Day, Article 36 of the Constitution is outclassed by the famous Article 1. In light of the tensions between politics and the various trade union strikes frequently called in our country, Welcome Association Italy has decided to dedicate this short article to workers’ rights in Italy. In these moments of political and social tensions, we would like to remind our readers of the value of Article 36 of the Constitution, and then unravel the differences with Article 1.

What Article 36 Of The Constitution states

“A worker shall have the right to remuneration commensurate with the quantity and quality of his work and in any case sufficient to ensure for himself and his family a free and dignified existence. The maximum length of the working day shall be determined by law. The worker shall have the right to weekly rest and paid annual leave, and may not waive it.” Article 36 of the Constitution recognizes several indispensable elements of every worker’s life. Brief as it may be in form, the Article contains several concepts of extreme relevance and complexity. Among those, we will focus on two points, which in our opinion, are preponderant for the Italian system:
  • remuneration proportionate to the quantity and quality of work;
  • ensuring a free and dignified existence for oneself and one’s family.

 Remuneration In Proportion To Quantity And Quality

Article 36 of the Constitution is dedicated to the category of employed workers and it has a purely defensive nature. Indeed, it tends to protect workers’ rights against possible abuses by employers, affirming imperative and inalienable elements. But how is remuneration proportionate to the quantity and quality of work established? As far as quantity is concerned, the benchmark of 8 hours of work per day has been reached thanks to several trade union struggles. As far as quality is concerned, the situation is much more complex. Quality is often associated, sometimes improperly, with the worker’s qualifications. Consequently, the proportionality between retribution and quality is much debated.

Ensuring A Free And Dignified Existence For Oneself And One’s Family

How can you define a free and dignified existence? Many studies trace back Italian demographic winter to the low levels of wages. This indicates that the guarantees of Article 36 of the Constitution, i.e. ensuring a free and dignified existence for oneself and one’s family, are not always guaranteed. Today, there are many National Collective Agreements (CCNL) that have been awaiting renewal for years. In addition, there are two factors that make it difficult to realize the guarantees of Article 36: the decline in the wages compared to the 1990s and the inflation. Italy has a very sad record, it is among the few Countries that have recorded a reduction in nominal and real wages since 1990. If inflation is added to this situation, a not very free and decent picture emerges for Italian employees.

 The Importance Of Article 36 of The Constitution

The importance of Article 36 of the Constitution derives from the protections that the Constituent Assembly imprinted on the newly formed Italian Constitution. The eight-hour working day, paid holidays, and remuneration to ensure a free and dignified existence seem due guarantees today, but they were conceived in a very different era. If workers’ rights seem to be losing their appeal today, it is due to the change in the country’s society and economy since 1948. The guarantees and rights in the Article should be the starting point for further improvement of workers’ lives and not just an ideal to aspire to. But how did we arrive at these guarantees that we take for granted today? We need only retrace the steps leading up to Workers’ Day: the First of May.

What Does Article 1 Say And Why Is It So Important?

“Italy is a democratic republic, founded on labour. Sovereignty belongs to the people, which exercises it in the forms and within the limits of the Constitution.” With these words, the Constituent Fathers established the form of state, government, and general principles that govern our country up to our day. As can be seen from the two Articles we are discussing (1 and 36), the subject of Labour plays a preponderant role in the Italian Constitution. At this time of economic stagnation and international conflicts, in a world characterized by interdependencies, workers’ rights have returned to center stage. Constitutional guarantees must be implemented to meet the challenges of the days in which we live. What were the steps that led to the affirmation of trade union achievements? How did we come to celebrate the First of May?

 Why Is The First Of May Celebrated?

The First of May is the workers’ holiday in Italy and in many other Countries around the world. This date is a celebration of the various trade union struggles that 19th-century workers led to claim what are now inalienable workers’ rights. But why the first day of May? What is so special about this date? Is there a particular event linked to this date? To answer this question, it is necessary to briefly track back the main stages that led to the consecration of this day dedicated to all workers.

 The Socio-Economic Context of 19th Century Workers’ Day

The origin of Workers’ Day has its roots in the heart of the Second Industrial Revolution, namely the United States in the second half of the 19th-century. This was a very dense period in terms of social relations. Industry employed the majority of the working population but, at the same time, there were no workers’ rights such as number of hours, work safety, or illness. The working class lived in critical conditions, completely exposed to the whims of the factory owners/employers. In this context, the first union struggles of the workers rose, boosted by exhausting shifts with no guarantees, with strikes and demonstrations often brutally repressed by the police.

 The Facts

The climax of these demonstrations and strikes took place in Chicago, Illinois, the industrial capital of the flourishing 19th-century American economy. In 1866, following violent repressions, which resulted in police firing on workers, a large workers’ demonstration was organized, gathering ten thousand workers from various factories. The demand of these workers was simple, to obtain an eight-hour working day. As a result of this demonstration, the following year, on May 1, 1867, the State of Illinois, to avoid further clashes that would have exacerbated the American social context, decreed the first eight-hour workday law, enshrining the first claim of American workers.

The Conquests

This trade union achievement was initially only recognized in the State of Illinois. It took another bloody demonstration, in 1887, to initiate this law on a federal basis. Finally, in 1889, at the Paris Conference the date of First of May was recognized as a workers’ holiday to celebrate the achievement of the eight-hour working day in the industrialized world. It has been a long and bloody journey that has been undertaken by tens of thousands of workers around the world. Very often we are not aware of the struggles and victims that have granted us the rights we take for granted today.  For this reason, our trade union is committed to raising awareness and reminding its readers that these achievements must be implemented, not forgotten.

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