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The principle which Article 39 of the Constitution proclaims as fundamental to the present system of industrial relations/labour relations , declaring that "trade union organization is free".

This principle (as opposed to the authoritarian principle underlying the corporatist system ) implies recognition of the right of individual workers and trade union organizations to protect their own interests in their working conditions, autonomously choosing the objective scope of this protection (which interests?) and the subjective (whose?), as well as the means and organizational forms deemed best suited to this end. It applies both in relation to the State (as provided for in ILO Convention No. 87 of 1948) and in relation to the employer, as is also laid down in ILO Convention No. 98 of 1949. In order to reinforce the effectiveness of the principle of trade union freedom in the area of employee/employer relations, the Workers' Statute recognized fundamental rights to trade union freedom, providing them with an effective system of sanctions, and supported them with a promotional set of regulations (see legislative promotion and support of unions ) intended to strengthen union action (see trade union activity ) in the workplace.

The principle of trade union freedom in the workplace is manifested in the right to organize, to join a union and to engage in union activity, and in the unlawfulness of discrimination on trade union grounds, even when this takes the form of a (collective) benefit granted on the basis of discriminatory criteria (see discrimination ). Interference from the employer, as also from the state, in the union's own sphere of activity is also incompatible with trade union freedom: for this reason employers are prohibited from organizing and financially supporting company unions/"yellow" unions . The principle of trade union freedom in the Italian system implies recognition of the right of the individual not to belong to any trade union ("negative" freedom of association/trade union freedom ), and the unlawfulness of discrimination liable to cause harm to non-unionized employees.

The principle also applies in the area of public sector employment . However, the trade union for the police is prohibited by law from having organizational and associative links with other trade union organizations; and in the case of military personnel the law provides for elected representative bodies with rights to be consulted on and to promote employees' interests in matters relating to pay and conditions.

Please note: the European industrial relations glossaries were compiled between 1991 and 2003 and are not updated. For current material see the European industrial relations dictionary.

Page last updated: 14 August, 2009