On Jan. 11, the Italian Constitutional Court rejected part of the petition by the country's largest trade union, the Italian General Confederation of Labor (CGIL), to hold a referendum on three aspects of a labor reform law known as the Jobs Act. The court's ruling blocked a referendum question dealing with Article 18 of the statute, which makes it easier for companies to fire workers. The court did, however, uphold two other proposed referendum questions. The first regards the use of vouchers to pay temporary workers without a contract, a cheap option for employers because it does not factor in the cost of making social contributions for workers. The second is about obligations to contract workers. The CGIL hopes to reintroduce a form of protection for people who work for a contracting or subcontracting company.
Lawmakers, however, are already planning to review the two less controversial aspects of the Jobs Act, and it is unclear whether a referendum will be possible. If the vote does go ahead, it would likely be scheduled sometime between mid-April and mid-June, although the referendum could also be postponed in case of early elections.
The Jobs Act, approved between 2014 and 2015, was one of the main reforms introduced by former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi aimed at addressing problems in Italy's labor market legislation to jumpstart the country's stagnant economy. In 2016, the CGIL collected 3.3 million signatures in support of its referendum challenge to the law. The union now plans to begin campaigning around the vote.
Even if the referendum is held and passed, it will not have the same effect as last year's vote on constitutional reform and will not necessarily endanger the Italian government. However, the issue points to the difficulties Italy will face in introducing economic reforms, which are a major source of uncertainty.