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Italian labour law: constitutional minimum wage according to the Italian Supreme Court

Labor law

Italian labour law: constitutional minimum wage according to the Italian Supreme Court

The Italian Supreme Court, Civil Section, Labor Section, in six decisions of October 2023 (decisions No. 27711 dated Oct. 2, 2023, No. 27713 dated Oct. 2, 2023, No. 27769 dated Oct. 2, 2023, No. 28320 dated Oct. 10, 2023, No. 28321 dated Oct. 10, 2023, No. 28323 dated Oct. 10, 2023) clarified the notion of the legal minimum wage, which cannot be determined through a blank reference to collective bargaining, but must always be based on Article 36 of the Constitution, which guarantees two distinct rights: the first to a wage proportionate to the quantity and quality of work (positive criterion) and the second to a sufficient wage (negative limit).

The court, which is called upon to perform a supervisory function, in determining the just wage under Article 36 of the Constitution must overcome the presumption of sufficiency of pay set by collective agreements and must in concrete terms verify that the pay does not fall below the minimum standards necessary to live a life according to human standards. Workers are entitled to a life that is not only not poor, but even dignified. The economic treatment must not only be oriented toward the satisfaction of mere essential needs, but also toward intangible goods, such as cultural, educational and social activities, in compliance with the indications provided by the European Union in EU Directive 2022/2041.

The Court recalls the duty of the judge, when faced with a worker’s request for adjustment of remuneration, to refer first and foremost to the remuneration established by the national collective bargaining agreement for the category and, in the event that the latter is deemed insufficient, in fact disapplying it, also to the remuneration established in other collective agreements in related sectors or for similar tasks. This control function is becoming increasingly necessary today, both as a result of the presence on the bargaining scene of collective associations (trade unions and employers’ associations) of questionable representativeness (signers of so-called pirate contracts), which also causes the proliferation of the number of collective agreements (more than 946 for the private sector according to the Italian Council of Economy and Labor CNEL), and because of the high inflation in recent years.