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Italy, Women

Pregnant? You’re fired!


You are a woman journalist, earning on average Euros 1200 a month for a ‘partnership’ lasting for a series of transmissions. Then you discover a ‘pregnancy clause’ in section 10 of the consultancy contract that the company offers to all freelancers.

If you are to become pregnant, or suffer an injury or illness, state broadcaster RAI reserves the right to deduct ‘fees related to services not performed, as well as to ‘terminate the contract’ without any payment or compensation.

In an open letter to Rai director general, published Monday on a blog, Lorenza Lei from a network of Rome-based freelance journalists named, “Printing Errors”, explained the double injury faced by women in many Italian companies.

On the one hand, the company considers pregnancy in the same way as a disease or an accident. On the other hand, it discriminates against ‘expert technical and scientific advisors’, as self-employed journalists are known.

The blog  provoked a rapid reaction from some political quarters. Andrea Sarubbi (Democrats) and Silvana Mura (Italy of Values) announced on twitter that they will bring the case to Parliament. Senator Vincenzo Vita of the Democrats will take it to the body that scrutizes RAI.

‘Facts like these,’ said CGIL General Secretary Susanna Camusso, ‘show that you should never delete the rules that protect workers against discrimination. This contract is unlawful. ”

Nichi Vendola, leader of Left Ecology Freedom Party has demanded the removal of ‘standards of the gallows’  for young employees.

RAI, after first denying knowledge of such clauses in contracts, has announced an investigation while stating that in Rai there ‘has never been any discrimination or discrimination’ nor issues relating to the legality of employment contracts.

Printing Errors says they have no evidence of layoffs connected to the clause but a number of journalists have contacted them to say they been approached to sign such a contract and they have had to sign it.

‘The clause exists and is a way to advise you not to get pregnant,’ says Valeria Calicchio, spokesperson of the organisation: ‘This use of self-employment is a fig leaf to justify not taking people on a regular contract. I hope that this campaign pushes the media and politics to not only deal with job insecurity in these severe cases. As well as maternity rights, we want to see rights for sickness, social security and fair pay respected.’

The Printing Errors open letter details the RAI labour supply chain.

Journalist Paola Natalicchio explains: ‘Consulting is an ultra-light contract applied to journalists who were enrolled in [significant] productions such as Agora, or Direct Drive Report. You are self-employed even if in fact you carry out the work of an editor with set working hours and you are working on 100 episodes.’

If, by chance, the journalist must appear on video, then you change the contract to include ‘presenter-director’.

‘These scam contracts are present in all editorial departments of the company,’ and cover all roles, from editor to cameraman.

The use and abuse of the self-employed, and the wide range of standard contracts, affects around 1,800 or more people in RAI.

For Claudio Aroldi, Sergio Cusani and Paolo Pellegrini, the authors of a recent report (1 December 2011) on the issue for the cultural communication workers section (SLC), this figure could be even greater.

Among the 11,501 individuals included in Rai’s payroll, there are staff that are on a number of other ‘precarious’ contracts.

More widely, companies tend to resort to these forms of contract in order to pass on the self-employed the full cost of their pension and insurance activities.

Taking the sector of communication and services in Rome, in 2007 and 2008 the so-called ‘consultants and freelancers’ group represented the largest self-employed group. Out of a total of 249,235, the ‘consultants’  which would include the 1700 ‘precarious’ workers of RAI, amounted to 63,111. Today, one suspects, there are certainly more.

If you cast the net wider, adding to the activities of ‘consultants’ and ‘free professionals’ those for ‘advanced services to business’ and ‘publishing activities’ this amounts  to 33% of the active labor force in Rome.

In the absence of an investigation similar to that conducted by Printing Errors, it can be assumed that these people do not enjoy all the fundamental social rights.

We must ask whether this situation is solely the result of the willingness of companies – of course, a incontrovertible factor – or also a system that is based on procurement and subcontracting, on piecework, on casual and informal work, as well as the constant and relentless deletion of fundamental rights.

RAI pledged in July 2011 that new hires would be taken on through the apprenticeship contract, just as the government intends to do with the labor reform [premier Mario] Monti announced.

In a situation of arbitrariness and confusion, this solution does not detract one iota from the conditions of a Roman [media] worker that, on average, is more than 29 years old, above the upper age limit of applicability of such a contract.

Il Manifesto,


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Writer on Europe's Left, trade union and social movements @tomgilltweets or @revoltingeurope


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