Wednesday, October 20, 2010

From father to son

Young Italians often complain that one of the reasons why graduate jobs are hard to come by is that hiring is often based on family relationships rather than merit. It's like an unwritten precedence rule. I was taken by surprise by the fact the rule actually is written.

In its negotiations with the trade unions Unicredit (one of largest European banks) agreed on Monday to hire first the sons of the employees that take voluntary redundancies. I could not believe it. This article on Il Mattino suggests that the practice is widespread in industrial agreements in the italian financial services, citing also Intesa San Paolo and BCC di Roma.

These other articles from major Italian newspapers report on the same news. But it seems so unreal that I wanted to find the primary source for the agreement. The news broke at 8:05 on 18/10/2010, but there is no mention of the father-son agreement. It is also not mentioned in the Fisac/CGIL (Union) statements, they only say "fostering youth employment" or something like that.

With a bit of Googling I found a scan of the original union agreement, the declaration is on page 28. The Italian wording is:
Su espressa richiesta delle OO.SS., Unicredit (...), ferma restando l'ineludibile esigenza di pieno rispetto delle caratteristiche meritocratiche che stanno alla base delle politiche di recruiting del Gruppo, conferma che non sara' posta in essere alcuna limitazione connessa al vincolo parentale nei confronti dei figli di dipendenti cessati per pensionamento volontario in possesso dei requisiti richiesti per la selezione (laurea triennale e conoscenza delle lingua inglese), determinando, a parita' di valutazione in sede di selezione, una priorita' nell'assunzione.

This is a single long sentence of the finest Italian legal prose meaning:
On request of the Unions, Unicredit, while following its overarching aim of meritocracy in hiring decisions, will favour the sons of employees who have taken voluntary redundancy over other candidates with the same qualifications, as long as they have a degree and can speak English

It is normal practice to encourage employees to put forward people they think valuable (sometimes offering money on top as a reward). There is nothing wrong in using staff as head hunters, but it is not quite the same thing as trading voluntary redundancies of senior employees in exchange of hiring their family.

I expect the next step is to rank second cousins just below sons in law but above nephews, with grandsons somewhere between third cousins and godchildren.

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