He was embraced by Italians as a change agent, much as Barack Obama was here in the U.S.
Appointed to replace maximally corrupt, ethically clueless, egotistically overwrought, picture-of-him-in-the-dictionary-next-to-the-word-“elitist” Silvio Berlusconi, Mario Monti surely seemed like a knight in shining armor: Here was a respected economist calling for reforms including higher tax rates and strong efforts to combat tax evasion.
Upon becoming prime minister, he even gave up his own salary.
But Monti also proposed pension reform and, backed by his technocrat cabinet – no member of which had ever been elected to public office – advocated “austerity” measures including the weakening or outright repeal of key labor laws. One ensured high levels of competency for cab drivers, pharmacists, doctors and lawyers. Monti’s reform, which was overwhelming approved by parliament, made it easier for less qualified people to attain licenses in these professions. It was done in the name of “increasing competition.”
Another reform targeted a longstanding law requiring employers to re-hire workers found to have been fired without cause.
Seems reasonable, right? If a company can’t say why someone is being let go, that person shouldn’t lose their job. Days ago, despite widespread worker and labor union opposition, Monti pushed the reform through, albeit a somewhat weakened version.
He argued that allowing companies to lay workers off more easily would open the door to more long-term work contracts.
(Individual workers negotiate contracts with their employers in Italy. Since the global financial crisis hit, companies have drastically cut hiring, and in the rare cases when a worker is added, market uncertainty coupled with the requirement to give cause when laying a worker off has led firms to commit to the shortest contracts possible. Still, Monti’s reasoning – that abolishment of the fire-for-cause requirement will somehow encourage employers to hire long term – is suspect at best, and makes contracts worth less than the paper on which they are printed at worst.)
Another Nude Emperor
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