ITALY – The latest meeting between welfare minister Roberto Maroni and 22 social partners to map out the future of the second pillar ended today with expressions of cautious optimism from both parties.

Maroni, one of the architects of Italy’s pension reform which passed last July to boost the second pillar and shift part of the pension responsibilities from the state to employers and employees, said the meeting had highlighted “the right attitude to carry on the work”.

He was referring to the implementation of decrees that will regulate how workers will pay their severance pay, also known as Tfr, into pension funds.

So far the Tfrs have been retained by their companies until an employee’s retirement. Under the pension reform, the Tfr should be invested in pension funds. However, the details for this new arrangement were not clarified.

Employers have lobbied for compensation for the Tfr loss. The Association of Italian Banks (ABI) has so far consented to the creation of a fund to help employers, but wants control over their credit rating. ABI was not available today for comment.

Maroni said in a statement that in yesterday’s meeting employers had criticised the tax breaks envisaged in the current draft for the pension reform implementation decrees and asked instead measures to lower the cost of labour. “I agree with this point and I have pledged to study new mechanisms” to help employers.

Confindustria director general Maurizio Beretta called the meeting ''interesting and positive.”

The trade unions have lobbied for the creation of ad-hoc pension funds to be set up with the consent of both trade unions and employers in what is called a ‘closed’ or contract-based pension scheme.

This option would clash with the interest of the insurance sector, which has lobbied the government to keep closed funds and insurance deals on the same level, as originally outlined by the reform. The Tfr market is estimated to be worth up to €13bn a year.

ANIA, the insurers body, was not available for comment but in an interview to the Italian press its director general, Gianpaolo Galli, said that if closed funds were privileged, the sector would turn to the Constitutional Court.

Lamberto Santini, insurance and banking sector secretary for the Uil trade union, told IPE that the meeting had left him “cautiously optimistic”.

Santini said he thought the minister seemed “60% keen” on giving in to the unions’ requests on the issue of closed funds having a “privileged platform” in the pension market. He said closed funds would represent a safer option for employees.

However, Santini added that he had reservations over Maroni’s indication that he would refer issues surrounding the funding of the reform to his economy and finance colleague, Domenico Siniscalco. Maroni is due to meet the social partners again on August 31.