In 1998 the Wall Street Journal reported the lettori case as an economics story striking at the heart of Europe’s much vaunted single-market.
It has taken a long time for this message to get through – but if workers from one EU country cannot move to another EU country and enjoy equal treatment then the single market is simply not a single market. Those who govern us are making political proclamations which sound good, look good and cost nothing – except of course to those citizens unfortunate or foolish enough to be caught between the rhetoric and the reality.
In the Financial Times, commenting on a dispute concerning Italian refinery workers in the UK, Italy’s much respected chairman of Confindustria, Emma Marcegaglia warned of the danger of “each country folding in on itself and forgetting the freedoms of the single market” (Britain must not go wobbly on the free market February 10, 2009)
We pointed out that “Italy provides the best example of legally proven mass discrimination based on nationality in the history of the European Union”, (Financial Times February 12, 2009, Italy has a history of discrimination).
We suggested that 2010 could be a breakthrough year for foreign lettori suffering illegal discrimination, when the then UK Europe Minister Chris Bryant MP agreed to meet us and William Hague MP pledged his support:
Indeed, in 2010, we found unprecedented interest from politicians and the press with the Times Higher Education Supplement writing – UK Politicians Join fight to end Italian ‘inequities’ -24 January 2010.
Although the Italian legal system is lamentably slow the bill for infringing peoples’ rights and not paying them their just wages eventually arrives.
The Guardian, 30 January 2010 wrote “British lecturers in Italy win better pay after court ruling – Minister asked to back campaign after seven lecturers awarded £300,000 in back pay at Padua University –
which was also picked up by Turin based Italian broadsheet La Stampa
In the UK Parliament Mark Lazarowicz MP joined the campaign
tabling an early day motion in the House of Commons which attracted 35 signatures
while Valerie Vaz MP tabled a motion attracting 22 signatures
The Daily Telegraph reported on 27 September 2010
The Italian Supreme Court for Administrative Matters awarded three British graduates damages for having been blocked from applying for teaching posts. Although this took 15 years of wrangled in courts from Venice to the ECJ in Luxembourg to Venice again and then to Rome – it confirmed that protectionist universities unfairly offering posts to their own graduates could expect to be forced to pay compensation.
The Press Association and The Independent, among others reported on this –
British Lecturers win damages over promotion block, 8 October 2010 –
UK minister David Lidington told us on 28 October 2010 “This injustice has continued for far too long, it is both morally wrong and contrary to the spirit of European co-operation that the lettori should still be denied rights. I shall press the Italian government to see justice is done”
In one of its three articles this year on lettori Italian Nanni Magazine reported on the UK government’s concern
European Voice published- Fighting Italy’s Class war, 2 December 2010 –
as well as letters challenging the Council of Ministers to take action.
The Financial Times, 10 December 2011 published a letter from a University of Milan lecturer in English on systematic flouting of EU law – Irony of accord named after Bologna –
and another from Bologna University based lecturer in French – Nothing more than an expensive talking shop
and again on 17 December the Financial Times carried a letter by German lecturer Michael Schlicht “Harmonisation overdue in Italy” … supporting Angela Merkel’s call for harmonisation in labour law
On 23 December 2010 the Italian Senate approved of a reform of the Italian University system (the Gelmini reform) which contained a clause (Art.26) concerning “lettori”.
We feared that this Article, which interferes with court cases pending in Italy, would thwart the effects of judgments of the European Court of Justice thereby challenging its position as sole and supreme authority on matters concerning the interpretation of the EU Treaty.
On 30 December 2011 La Repubblica reported that while Italian President of the Republic, Giorgio Napolitano, signed the Gelmini reform he expressed doubts on Article 26 – suggesting that it should be re-examined by the government since it may conflict with the case law of the Italian constitutional court.
With the recession, 2011 threatens to be difficult for all governments. It remains to be seen whether, as Emma Marcegaglia put it, we will see “each country folding in on itself and forgetting the freedoms of the single market” or UE Ministers will be strong enough vigorously defend Europe and the Treaty.