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CLOSING CONFERENCE: 9 May 2011

European Experts in Labour Law

Only sixty years ago a united Europe was a dream for a few elect minds, often called visionaries. This dream became a reality thanks to the sensible application of the philosophy of “Europe one step at a time”. Around 500 million communitary citizens now pacifically move and freely settle in a territory of more than four million square kilometres, they use a single currency, they take opportunities otherwise unimaginable that allow them to live decently, to have greater and better opportunities for employment, to acquire new competencies, to contribute to the birth and the growth of companies that are not only increasingly competitive, but are also capable of operating and planning investments with greater certainty.

The European Union is not only an economic partnership, but also a supranational and intergovernmental political subject, whose importance and useful role are recognized and respected in an era characterised by the globalisation of the markets, which, also due to a constant policy of liberalisation, are subject to a high degree of competition and are increasingly open to international exchanges.

In order to exploit the enormous potential of the European Union, however, greater cooperation between the twenty-seven member countries is necessary, allowing reconciliation of fiscal and industrial policies, common investments in research and networking; the creation of a single energy policy; the setting up of internal investments in infrastructures.

These are new topics, with a high degree of complexity that have given rise to the need – both for the economic agents, who must be in a position to take correct decisions independently, and for the institutions who are called upon to organise these exchanges – to avail themselves of professionals with a high degree of specialisation.

In this context, to allow the community labour market a harmonic and truly competitive growth, it is necessary to make timely and efficacious legislative choices which, nonetheless, are inevitably conditioned by delicate and complex factors of a social, political, industrial and cultural nature.

Almost inevitably the result of this mediation is the production of legislative contradictions and overlaps, a tangle of precepts and rules at times almost inextricable, but which can be, in any case, unravelled using the logical-judicial methods that the community institutions – on various grounds and at various levels, also thanks to the indispensable contribution of economists, sociologists and operators in the sector – have created at the time of political and legislative decisions and which are subject, both at national and community level, to a constant, although not always coherent, judicial monitoring of the correct application.

It is therefore necessary to make the work of homogenising the creation and interpretation of rules, values and systems, more effective, a need that has always been felt, but that nowadays is even stronger, above all for companies. This need is also the result of the admission to the European Union of countries with judicial and social traditions and cultures that for more than sixty years have felt the influence of political leanings that strongly conditioned their choices.

In this scenario, it is above all necessary to make an effort to share the principles and values on which to base the rules to be applied to the twenty-seven member states, rules that are based above all on the defence and the promotion of social justice.

Exactly the same aim of promoting social justice and decent work for all lies behind the mandate that has animated the International Labour Organization (ILO) since 1919.
In order to face this challenge the ILO has created a system of international labour standards that cover all the principal aspects of the world of work.  In Italy 92 International Labour conventions are in force.

At the same time the ILO has set up a control system that makes it possible to deal with all the problems deriving from the application of these standards at national level.
The tripartite structure of the ILO, while ensuring support for these regulations from governments, employers and workers, makes available to the world of work an international legal framework designed to guarantee that the economic development continues to be based on the objective of improving the life of people and preserving their dignity.

The international labour standards are reference tools for the development of national legislation. Italy has ratified a high number of Conventions and these are part of its domestic legal system. The added value of these standards is not however limited to their impact on the labour legislation but also contributes to the consolidation of national jurisprudence and judicial practices.

Another stimulus to use international labour laws derives from the increasing interest of citizens in the ethical dimension of products. This interest has led many companies operating at national and international level to adopt codes of conduct in order to regulate the labour conditions in the respective production sites and in those relating to their supply chains. The majority of the codes adopted so far refer to the regulations of the ILO in matters of fundamental labour rights such as trade union freedom and collective bargaining, non-discrimination, prohibition of child and slave labour, and in matters of safety and hygiene in the workplace.

In the European context and in coherence with the action taken at international level, the ILO intends to contribute to meeting the new needs of the world of work and the productive sectors, which require all-round professionals capable of first understanding and then managing such complex processes – specialists who must have a solid, general legal training, specific knowledge of the subject and experience, requisites that only true experts in this field of law can possess: the European experts in labour law.

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