The Court of Santa Maria Capua Vetere, by decree under art. 28, Law no. 300/1970, of 24 February 2022, stated that the dismissal of a trade union delegate, in the absence of prior authorisation from the trade union to which they belong, is ineffective and constitutes anti-union conduct.
Facts of the case
The decision stems from an appeal filed by the trade union association to which the employee belongs (RSU delegate), which said the employer was guilty of anti-union conduct having imposed the dismissal for just cause, in violation of art. 14 of the Multi-industry Agreement of 18 April 1966.
The above rule, referred to by the Metalworking Industry’s National Collective Labour Agreement, for cases of disciplinary dismissal announced during the period of validity of the trade union office, provides that its operation is subject to the employer obtaining the authorisation of the trade union association to which the union representative belongs. The employer must notify the dismissal to the trade union delegate and the trade union association which rules on the expulsion measure within six days. The trade union organisation may refuse the authorisation, thus preventing the dismissal from taking place. If the trade union does not express its opinion within the following six days or does not decide to initiate the optional conciliation procedure under Article 14, the dismissal becomes effective.
The purpose of this procedure is to (i) verify that the dismissal is not instrumental and unjustified, and (ii) to avoid possible disturbances connected with the dismissal of a trade union representative.
Only after filing the appeal under Art. 28, Law no. 300/1970 by the trade union association, the company had activated the procedure, communicating the re-admission of the trade union delegate, to fulfil their purpose but exempting them from providing work.
The Santa Maria Capua Vetere Court’s ruling
The court noted that the absence of the request for authorisation by the employer entails the “inoperability” of the dismissal and counted as anti-union conduct. In the court’s view, the procedure’s start (following the appeal filing), with the simultaneous formal readmission of the worker to service did not result in the anti-union conduct ceasing to exist, as the company claimed, or the conclusion of the disputed matter.
What mattered to the Court for the purposes of the existence of the interest in bringing proceedings under Art. 28, Law no. 300/1970 was not only the existence of the anti-union conduct but its continued damaging effect. In this case, the damaging effects was that the employer effectively prevented the RSU delegate, who had been suspended from work, from accessing company premises and exercising their functions.
The court ordered the continuation of the employment relationship without exemption from work and for the time necessary to carry out the procedure under Article 14 of the Multi-industry agreement.
Based on previous case law, the decree held that the sanction of reinstatement under Article 18 of the Workers’ Statute does not apply in cases of nullity of dismissal. This is because the infringement of Article 14 is a breach of contract and not a breach of law. Dismissal is only invalid if the employer’s termination is based on the employee’s membership of a trade union or participation in trade union activities and is therefore discriminatory.
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