I am pleased to announce that British politicians are showing strong support for those non-Italian lecturers known as “lettori” still suffering discrimination based on nationality in most of Italy’s universities.
The British Foreign Office issued this statement, “Europe Minister Chris Bryant has agreed to meet with the “lettori” this month. He is sympathetic to their concerns and will be raising the issue with his Italian counterpart.”
The meeting between ALLSI (Association of Foreign Lecturers in Italy) will take place on 1 February 2010 at 10.30 in London.
We have also secured the support of Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague.
Following recent meetings with the government in London and the European Commission in Brussel I feel that the year 2010 may well be a breakthrough for our campaign and for equal treatment and fairness in the European Union. For almost 30 years we have been up against the persistent refusal of the Italian university authorities to pay foreign lecturers on the same scale as Italian lecturers, to recognise continuity of employment and to hold fair competitions for full academic post – all of which have been found to be in breach of European law and are, without doubt, the clearest mass systematic breaches of the EU Treaty. If you scour the websites of British Universities you will find scores of Italians teaching in British universities. I know of not one single complaint from one single Italian citizen claiming he/she is being discriminated against because of his/her passport. Yet in a sample 255 non-Italians working in 18 universities shows that 83% are still not receiving equal treatment under the European Treaty, despite a record 7 judgments of the European Court of Justice. We thank all of the British politicians who are supporting us – it’s not about right and left, it’s about right and wrong.
The campaign received a major boost from Shadow Foreign Secretary Mr. William Hague who said “Where British citizens have been denied the rights they are entitled to because an EU Member State has failed to implement EU law properly the British Government should raise the matter with the relevant Government. The Government needs to address the situation of British lecturers in Italy. The principle of non-discrimination on grounds of nationality is crucial to the Single Market. All EU Member States have a duty to uphold it.”
Mr Peter Kilfoyle MP who has promised to support our campaign in the House of Commons said “This disgraceful denial of the rights of British academics in Italy must end. For too long, British governments of left and right have failed to stand up for these British citizens working abroad. I call upon the Foreign Secretary to make a firm commitment on this and end this injustice once and for all.”
Italian lawyer, Professor Lorenzo Picotti who has represented the lecturers in the European Court of Justice and in hundreds of cases in Italy, said “Each EU member state must ensure that decisions of the European Court of Justice are respected and effectively implemented. This is an essential principle not only for the lecturers working – or who have worked – for years in the Italian universities and have had to fight again and again against discrimination. The future development of the European Union, after the coming into force of the new Treaty of Lisbon, is at stake here.”
Hundreds of non-Italian lecturers working in Italian universities known as “lettori” have been denied parity of treatment with their Italian counterparts for three decades. Employed under an Italian decree law of 1980 they have been seeking parity of treatment under EU single market rules, with regard to salary scales, pensions and social security rights and access to jobs. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled on lettori cases a record of seven times (see http://www.allsi.org/allsi_about.html )
Italy abrogated its offending 1980 decree in 1995 replacing it with a law which the lecturers alleged downgraded them to the status of technicians. The ECJ ruled in 2001 that this 1995 Italian law failed to guarantee the non-Italian citizens equal treatment and that Italy, the Court ruled, had therefore failed to uphold its Treaty obligations. Italy brought in further legislation in 2004.
This 2004 legislation resulted in a call from the ECJs Portuguese Advocate General, Poiares Maduro to fine Italy €309,750 per day until the discrimination ceased. The ECJ in a judgment of 18 July 2006 declined to do so saying that it had not been demonstrated that Italy’s infringement had continued up until the date in which the Court examined the facts. The ECJ ruled further that the 2004 legislation did provide a legal framework for paying the lecturers arrears in wages and regularizing their social security and pension rights.
However, the lecturers met officials of the European Commission in Brussels on 11 November 2009 and Foreign Office officials in London on 8 December 2009 and deposited a dossier showing that in a sample of 255 lettori in 18 Italian universities 83% were still clearly being denied their rights as interpreted by the ECJ.
David Petrie, ALLSI chair www.allsi.org