Social peace not fully guaranteed
Road transport: actions for supporting the sector
A decree has been signed which allocates resources for the sector’s main requirements, specifically for reducing labour costs, for road safety, personnel training actions and a flat-rate deduction for non-documented expenses
by Paolo Castiglia
The associations maintain that it is absolutely necessary to financially strengthen Italian firms through immediate solutions that will guarantee competitiveness and reverse the current negative trend of international competition.
The 368 million euros that were allocated to support the road transport sector are weighing heavily. It was money provided under stability law 2011 and other regulations. It weighs considerably on negotiations with the government in the troubled world of road transport, where someone announced, and then retracted, that there would be a standstill mid-May. Many weapons were returned to their sheaths on 13 May 2011, when Altero Matteoli, the Minister for Infrastructures and Transport, signed a decree that allocated resources to meet the sector’s main requirements, specifically for reducing labour costs, for road safety, personnel training actions and a flat-rate deduction for non-documented expenses.
“In accordance with the commitments made by the government, the decree that I signed and have already sent to my colleague Tremonti for agreement” – stated Minister Matteoli – “is on schedule and meets the demands and the expectations of a sector that is of crucial importance for the economy of the country”.
The signature was followed by a meeting between Transport Undersecretary Bartolomeo Giachino and the road transport associations to clarify the application of the agreements. At the meeting, the Undersecretary announced that the interdepartmental decree for allocating resources to the sector had been defined for 2011 and pointed out that half would be available in June. The funds are divided into 120 million euros for motorway toll discounts, 105 million euros for the reduction of industrial injury compensation (INAIL), 113 million euros for non-documented expenses, and 22 million for healthcare.
Giachino also presented the Ministry of the Interior circular that puts into effect the new regulation about pallets. Now carriers are no longer responsible for pallet management, they are not compelled to return empty ones, and have the right to be paid for all additional services carried out for the contractor. Under this regulation, public safety standards also apply to the sale of pallets, to prevent illegal practices that lead to the receipt of stolen goods.
The Undersecretary also announced the interdepartmental definition of article 83 bis of Law 133/2008 that will be applied for the first time to contractors. He also said that the minimum costs for safety provided under Law 127 are being defined by the Observatory for transport activities.
After the meeting, the Sicilian road transport associations, Aias and Assiotrat, which were part of the national road transport standstill called by TrasportoUnito from 16 to 20 May 2011, announced their abstention from the protest because they “appreciated the government’s efforts to find an immediate answer to the problems that afflict road transport”. Shortly afterwards, TrasportoUnito also announced that it had suspended the standstill.
So certain peace has been re-established? No. The associations represented by Unatras “appreciate certain important changes such as penalties for contractors who do not observe minimum costs and the undertaking to include the VAT reimbursement regulation in the Legislative Decree on Development”, but pointed out in a communication that “the Observatory did not publish the minimum costs for safety regarding transport contracts drawn up before 12 May (as promised by the Undersecretary) and that firms are still waiting for the regulations that govern how the financial resources allocated to the sector can be spent, because of delays accumulated by the other ministries involved in drawing up the regulations”.
This is why “Unatras has broken the social peace agreed with the government and if the Undersecretary does not uphold yesterday’s undertakings to immediately issue provisions regarding spending and to pursue the application of penalties on contractors that do not respect minimum costs, it will decide whether or not to continue the confrontation with the executive”. We shall see.
Penalties for contractors that do not apply minimum costs
Another decisive and positive change in the relationship between the road transport associations and the executive is the total involvement of contractors in matters concerning safety: “The application of fines under article 83-bis, paragraph 14 of Law 133/2008, the exclusion from public tenders for up 6 months and from fiscal, financial and social security benefits for one year, for contractors that do not apply minimum operating costs, is at last a reality”. There is a hint of pride in a note from Pasquale Russo, General Secretary of Conftrasporto.
In effect, the procedure for the application of penalties is beginning to take shape: a regulation has come into force by which, for the first time, contractors that do not respect the minimum costs for road transport safety will be penalized. “We therefore invite” – Russo continued – “all firms and associations that become aware that these costs are not being applied, to use the tool provided under the Ministerial Decree of 16.9.2009 to report such irregularities to the Ministry for Infrastructures and Transport”.
It all stemmed from the fact that Attilio Befera, director of the Revenue and Customs Agency, established public penalties for those who underpay services by carriers, a practice that frequently leads to the infringement of road safety rules by the latter. The new regulation states that contractors that do not apply the minimum costs will be forbidden from taking part in public tenders for a period of up to six months and will be excluded from tax benefits for one year, in addition to answering for road safety violations in the same way as the carrier.
The penalties include the publication on the Revenue and Customs Agency website of information about the contractor that infringes the regulation. A virtual pillory, even if it is only to allow “the entities and administrations that verify the observance of the penalties to determine their respective areas of competence”.
The list of those penalized will include VAT number, Tax I.D., name, surname, place and date of birth or, in the case of companies, the name and registered office of the company. The news has just come in that the first contractor has been fined for not observing the obligation to pay a road transport firm the minimum safety costs.
• International defence of Italian road transport
Confartigianato Trasporti together with Cna Fita, Conftrasporto, Fedit and Sna Casartigiani recently wrote to Altero Matteoli, the Minister for Infrastructures and Transport, requesting intervention at the next Forum at Lipsia in defence of Italian road transport firms that are increasingly threatened by unfair competition and social dumping by foreign carriers. In particular, the associations pointed out the hazards of the liberalization of the international road transport market that emerged at the recent CEMT/ITF: the removal of all trade barriers, the elimination of the three-journey regulation, the automatic establishment of a “common fund” of authorizations, a decisional mechanism no longer based on the principle of unanimity.
“Our firms” – the letter stated – “already have considerable problems caused by the unfair practices of carriers from other EU member states, which regularly infringe Community regulations – with regard to cabotage or social security, for example – by applying conditions and prices that are much lower than those that can be supported by Italians.
“If carriers from non-European countries” – the letter continued – “are given easy access to our markets without any respect for regulations, Italian road transport and the entire national economy will be crushed”.
In closing: “The associations maintain that it is absolutely necessary to financially strengthen Italian firms through immediate solutions that will guarantee competitiveness and reverse the current negative trend of international competition. Moreover, the opening up of the market must be based on the strict observance our social, technical and environmental standards and regulations by firms from other states”.
• Associations of Italian municipalities and logistics council: a consultation pact for the urban distribution of goods
Thanks to the Council for Road Transport and Logistics, a centre has been opened for providing municipalities with free consultancy that will help them with urban mobility decisions together with all the categories involved. “It is another piece in the National Logistics Plan” – explained Undersecretary Giachino – “an important piece given that the inefficiencies of the urban distribution of goods are estimated at 10 billion euros. Starting tomorrow, I expect that before taking decisions that involve the distribution of goods, all Italian municipalities will consult this centre”.
Over 8,000 Italian municipalities are totally autonomous with regard to decisions about mobility. Sometimes local administrations decide to close areas of the city to goods traffic, impose thoroughfare restrictions, limit the delivery of goods to certain hours, and introduce forms of payment for access to Limited Traffic Zones: decisions that are sometimes made without adequate meetings with operators and create all the problems imaginable for road transport firms.
To cope with this, the Council for Road Transport and Logistics headed by Transport Undersecretary Bartolomeo Giachino, and ANCI, the association that represents Italian municipalities, have signed a protocol for setting up a desk for road transporters, traders and industrial contractors, the representatives of which are part of the Council.