A draft bill or institutional delirium?

proposta di legge
05 Feb 2019

The draft bill concerning Sunday closing was finally presented to the Committee for Productive Activities in the Italian Chamber of Deputies a few days ago. Getting to this point has been a long, painful process; inevitable though for an initiative based on electoral interests without any rational consideration for the actual needs of the social partners involved.

Following interminable talks, the two powers of majority have come to an “agreement”. The draft bill states that businesses can open on no more than twenty-six out of fifty-two Sundays a year. In addition to this they can open on four out of twelve public holidays. Furthermore, there will be no more Sunday deliveries for online shopping.

Fines for breaking these rules vary from €10,000 to €60,000, and these could even be doubled for repeat offenders.

On top of this we also have the usual confused sampling of exceptions linked to an attempt to agree the unagreeable with local authorities. The question is should historical town and city centres, tourist hotspots and metropolitan areas be immune. The first to oppose the plan was the Mayor of Milan, Giuseppe Sala, who was soon followed by a further thirteen Italian major cities (Bari, Bologna, Cagliari, Catania, Florence, Genoa, Messina, Naples, Palermo, Reggio Calabria, Rome, Turin, and Venice).

One step forward, two steps back

There is actually one certainty from the government in the draft bill: an unstoppable urge to impose restrictions and end liberalisation combined with the most elementary ignorance about the economy.

A superbly smart decision. Just when Italy’s economy officially tips into recession and consumption is at a standstill or has even fallen, the government bans shops from opening on eight public holidays and half the Sundays and threatens to crack down on night-time openings.

A drop in GDP and the number of jobs. According to Italy’s leading retail association Confimprese, € 34 billion in revenue and about 90,000 jobs are at risk, of which 80,000 are in retail and 10,000 of those in wholesale (it should be obvious though that fewer working days mean lower employment). And the picture only worsens when the fallout effect on dependent industries is taken into account.

It’s the “new economic boom”, oddly incomprehensible to most.

The draft bill would be a way to give workers Sundays off. A seemingly legitimate principle. A shame then that a day off is already a contractual obligation, even if it does not necessarily fall on a Sunday, as anyone who regularly works public holidays in many other industrial, service or public administration sectors knows only too well.

One step forward in the leaders’ Jacobin fantasy. Two steps back in the real world.