The Italian PM is showing real leadership, such a rare quality in politics:
Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti walked away last week from negotiations with Italy’s labor unions and announced that he was going to move ahead with reforming the country’s notorious employment laws—with or without union consent. If Rome is spared the fate that recently befell Athens, mark this as the week the turnaround began.
Italy’s labor laws are some of the most restrictive in the Western world. The totemic Article 18 all but bans companies with more than 15 employees from involuntarily dismissing workers, regardless of the severance offered. Mr. Monti has proposed replacing this job-for-life scheme with a generous system of guaranteed severance when employees are dismissed for “economic reasons.”
In most of the free world, this would count as a useful, albeit mild, reform. Among other weaknesses, the new law would not affect a worker’s right to challenge his dismissal in court when fired for disciplinary reasons—an unreciprocated gift to the unions.
But standing up to Italy’s labor unions takes courage, and not only of the political sort. Ten years ago this month economist Marco Biagi was gunned down by left-wing terrorists for his role in designing a previous attempt at labor-market reform. Today, Mr. Monti’s move has prompted calls for a general strike from CGIL, Italy’s largest union confederation.
(…) Postwar Italian politics has chewed up more than a few would-be reformers while career politicians and union leaders enjoy the spoils of power. The difference with Mr. Monti is that he didn’t take this job to be a caretaker PM. If he means to make his current reform the first, not last, step in a more ambitious agenda for reviving Italian growth, he could make his one term in office a great one.
A general strike… what a surprise. Read the whole thing »