* First major use of new pension rules passed in 2012
* Enel targets newer markets for growth
* Oil group Eni considers accord for 1,000 employees
(Adds Eni considering early retirement accord)
By Alberto Sisto
ROME, May 10 Italian power company Enel
has reached a deal on early retirement for almost 10
percent of its domestic workforce, the largest agreement of its
kind since the government overhauled Italy's pension rules, a
labour union source said.
Italian oil and gas group Eni also said on Friday
it was considering a similar deal that would see 1,000 employees
take early retirement out of its domestic workforce of around
33,000, but had not yet taken a final decision.
With the Italian economy in its longest recession since
World War Two, Enel has suffered a steep decline in demand for
gas and electricity at home and is now looking to newer markets
such as Latin America for growth.
The country's biggest electricity provider will make up
pension contributions and cover extra costs imposed on 3,500
workers taking voluntary early retirement under legislation
passed last year by the government of former Prime Minister
"It's the first time such a large number of people make use
of this new law," the union source said on Friday.
Enel shares gained 0.8 percent at 2.95 euros on Friday. An
index of European utility companies rose 0.4 percent.
Power consumption has been hit hard by the crisis in Italy,
which was underlined on Friday by a 0.8 percent fall in
industrial production figures for March, pointing to a bleak
reading for first quarter gross domestic product data next week.
The new pensions law raises the retirement age to ensure the
state pension system is not blown apart by an ageing population.
It allows workers to leave on a full pension within four years
of the normal retirement age as long as they have paid
contributions for the necessary minimum number of years.
The new regulations impose several restrictions and
additional costs on early retirement agreements but the accords
can be more attractive to both companies and workers than
Enel, in which the state holds a controlling 31 percent
stake, has been reluctant to impose redundancies on its
36,000-strong Italian workforce but has long encouraged older
workers to leave early under individual early retirement deals.
More than a quarter of all terminations in the company's
global workforce of around 74,000 last year were in Italy, with
most of these due to voluntary early retirement, according to
the company's 2012 annual report.
As part of the new agreement, Enel expects to hire around
1,500 younger workers under new labour market provisions
intended to encourage apprenticeships, according to a company
The new pension rules impose penalties on workers who leave
before they reach 62. But these can be made up by the company,
which can also cover pension contributions for departing workers
during the gap up to their normal retirement age to ensure they
get a full pension.
Under the agreement reached with Enel's unions, which still
requires approval from the Labour Ministry, Enel will make up
the additional costs for the departing workers and provide other
incentives including health benefits.
(Writing by James Mackenzie; Editing by Tom Pfeiffer and Mark