Italy readies special furlough scheme to save workers from heatwave

FILE PHOTO: Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni visits Warsaw

ROME (Reuters) -Italy is preparing special measures to help construction and agricultural firms keep staff at home during an intense summer heatwave, government officials and trade unionists said on Tuesday.

Giorgia Meloni's cabinet will probably discuss the furlough scheme at a meeting on Wednesday, Labour Minister Marina Calderone told the unions at a gathering about the weather emergency.

However Italy's main union, the CGIL, said the proposals did not go far enough.

"Nothing is provided to help people working for delivery firms or seasonal workers, or other categories of employees," it said in a statement.

Under Italian regulations, companies can apply for temporary lay-offs - usually to deal with a slump in business - for no more than 52 weeks over two years, or 90 days per year in the agricultural sector.

The new decree will allow construction and agricultural firms, both severely hit by the heatwave because their workers cannot work from home, to use the instrument without the hours being counted in the overall limits, government officials said.

Although the measures have a cost for the state coffers, the government believes they can be covered by the funds already earmarked for the ordinary furlough scheme, which is not expected to be fully used, the officials added.

Italian hospitals in the regions worst hit by soaring temperatures are seeing a jump in heat-related emergencies, medics have said.

To support workers in sectors other than construction and agriculture to deal with heatwaves, the government and the unions are working on a memorandum of understanding detailing steps such as the reorganisation of work shifts and breaks.

(Reporting by Giuseppe Fonte, editing by Gavin Jones)