Where does a Virtuous Circle Begin?

by Domenico Di Monte, President of Assofluid

What came first, the chicken or the egg? This eternal question, tangling up the most astute of minds, nowadays concerns the working world and the steps necessary for an economic system to grow, guaranteeing, at the same time, continuity in investment and work place safety.
Where are the best working conditions to be found and what are the factors leading to sustainable economic development? It almost seems that currently, measures are being put in place to either protect workers rights or to promote industrial development. These are two contexts that should happily co-exist. I am referring in particular to the “dignity” legislation, a measure, which from its title alone, smacks of marketing and which considers “indecent” the contexts it intends to change. It overlooks an objective analysis of the content of the changes it proposes which should, instead, be considered from a variety of angles: economic, social, political. We are moving from a focus on an industrial plan like that of Industry 4.0 of the previous economy minister, Calenda, to the “dignity” legislation which focuses on complementary aspects to industrial policy, possibly forgetting that “working conditions” are a consequence of industrial development and not the other way round.
What concerns me is that the idea of business growth must be the opposite of protecting workers’ rights. The employment market can only be strengthened through the uptake of technological innovation and improvements to the production cycle. This will not be achieved through “punitive” legislation but through investment in human capital and continuous training. It is paradoxical that in an age where companies are desperately in search of well qualified candidates to hire, the topic of debate is not the creation of such characteristics but exclusively how to block dismissals and company migration (a perfectly legitimate goal in itself). Companies exist because of their workforce and it is they who create growth thanks to their skills. It is fundamental to establish rules and regulations protecting workers’ rights and safety and the distribution of the value created by the company. However, we must never forget that the best way to do this is by helping the company to thrive and grow. To use an analogy borrowed from another industrial sector, concentrating all efforts on the comfort of passengers on a train but forgetting the carriages need a locomotive and, above all, rails on which to travel, leads to the train going nowhere and the passengers stranded… albeit in great comfort.