Wind Tre staff to strike over network separation

Italy's biggest telecoms trade unions have called a strike at Wind Tre, reiteration their strong opposition to the company's plan to spin off its networks business.

Mary Lennighan

April 25, 2023

3 Min Read
People raised hand air fighting for protest

Italy’s biggest telecoms trade unions have called a strike at Wind Tre, reiteration their strong opposition to the company’s plan to spin off its networks business.

A full-shift strike will take place at Wind Tre on 4 May, according to a joint announcement from SLC-CGIL Fistel-CISL and UILCOM-UIL, while a strike for extraordinary and ancillary services will run from 2 May to 31 May.

The announcement followed a meeting held late last week between the unions, Wind Tre, and a representative of Swedish private equity firm EQT, which is slated to take a 60% stake in NetCo, the spun-off networks entity. The various parties confirmed elements of the spin-off plan at the meeting and the unions made it clear that they will not support the move in any way, shape or form. Furthermore, it seems that the plan is moving forward more quickly than expected.

The Technology and Wholesale business unit – or NetCo – will be established in the next few days, the unions learned at the meeting, with Wind Tre bringing together all the staff that fall within its perimeter, including those involved in operations, as well as finance, HR, legal, auditing, business development and service management employees. The telco also confirmed that it expects to finalise the whole process in the October/November timeframe; the unions put that at “around six months,” having previously been working towards a six-nine-month deadline…although that seems like splitting hairs, a bit.

Nonetheless, the spin-off is happening at pace, with the remainder of Wind Tre – and its remaining 4,000 employees – set to become a mobile and fixed telecoms provider, electricity and gas retailer, and provider of insurance, security, IoT and other services well before the end of the year.

“As trade union organizations we have, once again, reiterated our total opposition to the spin-off, which represents a mere short-term financial transaction, an economic efficiency without any industrial prospects and which, we fear, will bring employment repercussions in the future,” the unions said. They note that the EQT representative at the meeting explained that the firm’s usual pattern is to invest in a company for between five and seven years, during which time it will carry out consolidation initiatives, before selling on to a longer-term investor.

In their opinion, Wind Tre’s real strength in recent years has been its position as an integrated company, which has enabled the unions to manage thousands of redundancies in what they describe as a “non-traumatic” way, through moving personnel around and insourcing roles. With the company quickly moving to split into two, soon this will be no longer possible, they say.

“The strong acceleration, which the company would now like to impose on the process of separation, is at this moment also taking shape through pressure attitudes towards individual workers, as well as sudden personnel transfers between the various organizational areas,” the unions said. “Such attitudes are completely inadmissible and we ask that they stop immediately.”

In addition to calling the strikes, the unions have warned employees not to sign anything presented to them by the company, and are requesting meetings with the relevant government bodies to put their point across.

Their concern over the whole concept of structural separation – which is likely to prove too hefty a juggernaut to completely stop in its tracks – might be a tricky sell, particularly given the ongoing TIM network assets sale. But the unions could garner support for their objection to the arrival of a foreign, short-term investor as majority shareholder of the Wind Tre NetCo. Either way, the Italian telco is in for a rough ride in the coming months.


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About the Author(s)

Mary Lennighan

Mary has been following developments in the telecoms industry for more than 20 years. She is currently a freelance journalist, having stepped down as editor of Total Telecom in late 2017; her career history also includes three years at CIT Publications (now part of Telegeography) and a stint at Reuters. Mary's key area of focus is on the business of telecoms, looking at operator strategy and financial performance, as well as regulatory developments, spectrum allocation and the like. She holds a Bachelor's degree in modern languages and an MA in Italian language and literature.

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