Prepared by Francesca Tironi and Marco Bove
Decree Law 36/2022 (converted, with amendments, by Law 29/6/22, no. 79) partially amended the content of Article 1677 bis of the Civil Code, to which the logistics sector was added among the areas of application. Given the strategic importance that this sector has held over the past three pandemic years, trade unions have bitterly criticized this amendment, as it was considered potentially capable of limiting the joint liability regime between principal and contractor for employees’ claim provided for by Art. 29, Legislative Decree No. 276/03 (the so-called “Biagi Law”).
In fact, the new wording of Article 1677 of the Italian Civil Code (Provision of several services concerning the transfer of things) provides that: “If the service agreement has as its object, jointly, the provision of two or more logistics services relating to the activities of receiving, processing, storage, custody, dispatch, transfer and distribution of goods of another party, the rules relating to the contract of carriage shall apply to the activities of transferring things from one place to another, insofar as they are compatible.”
Prior to the amendment, the text was as follows: “If the contract has as its object, jointly, the provision of several services relating to the activities of receiving, storage, custody, dispatch, transfer and distribution of goods of another person, the rules relating to the contract of carriage shall apply to the activities of transferring things from one place to another, insofar as they are compatible.”
Apparently, the revised Art. 1677 bis of the Italian Civil Code could have important implications in the context of the regulation of integrated logistics contracts – for which the regime of joint liability referred to in Art. 29 cited above, between principal/contractor/subcontractor) has always been considered applicable – with reference to which it is not uncommon to come across irregular cases (with particular regard to the pay and contribution treatments reserved for the personnel employed), if not even criminal.
The rule, as reformulated, would seem to determine – for employees involved in logistics services – the inapplicability of the regime of joint liability between principal and contractor for employees’ claims sanctioned by Article 29, Legislative Decree No. 276/03 in favor of the applicability of the rules governing mere transportation contracts for which precisely the regime of joint liability between principals, contractors and subcontractors does not apply.
If this were the case, the rules governing integrated logistics contracts would be applicable to transportation contracts, which provide a far less effective protection regime than those provided by Art. 29, Legislative Decree no. 276/2003.
Although the amended Art. 1677 bis of the Italian Civil Code raises more than a few interpretative doubts, one cannot help but note that the exclusion tout court of the joint liability regime even in the case of logistics contracts would clash with normative forecasts, jurisprudential pronouncements and established practices. On the one hand, in fact, Article 29 of Legislative Decree 276/2003 is of non-negligible importance from a labor law perspective. On the other hand, the final provision contained in 1677 bis Italian Civil Code, in providing that “to the (only) activities of transferring things from one place to another, the rules relating to the contract of carriage apply, insofar as they are compatible,” seems to lean toward limiting the application of the regime relating to contracts of carriage to only those cases that can actually be framed as such.
In light of the situation described above, a clarifying intervention by the legislature can be expected in the coming weeks. In this sense, the Minister of Labor, on the sidelines of a meeting with the trade unions, took note of the ambiguity of the revised Article 1677 bis and pledged to provide appropriate clarifications or, alternatively, to intervene with legislative amendments.
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