Berlusconi government goes where Romans would never dare

Here is my speech delivered to the European Parliament Petitions Committee on 25 January 2011:

Madam Chairman, honourable members, thank you very much for this opportunity.

For almost 20 years Italy has been discriminating against its non-Italian teaching staff  – lettori – discrimination based on nationality, with regard to access to jobs, duration of contract, equal pay and pension rights. The European Court of Justice has ruled in favour of the lettori 6 times.

Now, we all know that prior to the outbreak of the Second World War certain European governments introduced legislation which specifically targeted certain categories of people removing their full civil rights – rendering them aliens or, shall we say, at least not full legal persons who enjoyed the same rights as full citizens.

From the first signing of the Treaties – in Rome in 1957 up till Lisbon – many signatories/governments – some more than others – infringed the Treaties which they signed up to.

However, I know of no signatory/government which has legislated – legislated – against the Treaties and against the authority of the European Court of Justice.

Some of you may imagine that the very idea is unthinkable – in reality it is less than 100 hours away.

On Saturday of this week – 29 January 2011 – an Italian law “the Gelmini reform”  comes into force, stripping myself and my colleagues, non-Italian lecturers working in Italian universities, of basic civil rights.

As of Saturday – the right to equal treatment – gone;

the inviolable right of defence – gone;

the right to due process of law – gone;

the right to a decision from a judge on the merits of a legal claim – gone.

Gone – cancelled by Article 26 of “the Gelmini law”.

The President of the Italian Republic, Giorgio Napolitano, although he signed the law, did flag up article 26 – saying to the government that it needs to be looked at again. I should say so.

What the Romans would never have done – an Italian government has done.

So, how did we get to this point and why – why in particular has the Italian state brought in such drastic measures.

Answer: For 20 odd-years, universities all over Italy, bankrolled by their paymaster the Italian state, have been wasting millions on law suits rather than paying foreigners the same wages as Italians.

The  Italian authorities have not unilaterally implemented the ECJ decisions – consequently there are hundreds of court cases pending – but despite Italy’s gruesomely slow legal system – the chickens are coming home to roost.

The University of Padua, for example, has been ordered to pay €5 million in damages for years of unpaid arrears in wages to 14 lettori   – the universities fear that in the future they will be forced to pay equal wages for equal work.   So, universities are saying “were bust – we can’t pay” and the state is saying “we won’t pay”. Cant pay/wont pay.

The Berlusconi government’s  “solution” is – is to “extinguish” lettori law suits – because that is literally what Article 26 states, it “extinguishes” all pending court cases  –  thereby legislating against judgments of the ECJ and legislating against the EU Treaty – and stripping us of full citizens rights.

Yesterday, our lawyers wrote to the Commission asking for infringement proceedings.

We ask the Committee – to seek the speedy intervention of the European Commission; to bring the matter to the attention of the Council of Ministers to ask the Parliament’s legal affairs committee to commission its own report on this complaint and, given the seriousness of the complaint, to make a public statement to the media.

We request that this petition remains open until the fundamental legal rights of these non-Italian citizens are fully re-established in the Republic of Italy.

Thank you.

This entry was posted in Discrimination based on nationality in Italian universities, Europe, European Commission, European Parliament, European Treaty, Free movement of workers in EU, Gelmini reform, Italian universities, Italy, Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, UK Government, Workers' rights and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Berlusconi government goes where Romans would never dare

  1. Mathilde Anquetil says:

    Un Ecossais qui sait s’indigner utile! Bravo!

  2. John Young says:

    A fine speech from David Petrie, well done. Will they listen? It’s about time they did, because Italy is shaping up to be a rogue State in Europe. It always has tended to take the EU money and ignore the EU obligations, but this new ploy of actually legislating to legitimise its failure to apply Community law takes the game to a new level. And other Member States will not be slow to catch on, if Italy gets away with it. Cyprus and Malta already point to Italy’s longstanding record of legalising wildlife crime to excuse their own appalling failures in applying the EU Birds Directive. Hungary’s right-wing premier Viktor Orban unceasingly reminds critics of his new laws to muzzle the press that Berlusconi has been doing the same or worse for years, while the EU never complained. The Gelmini law, if unchallenged, will be a standing invitation to all Member States to do likewise and simply move the goalposts, if they find EU legislation or Treaty obligations inconvenient. And at that point the European Union, founded on the free circulation of its citizens and their equal rights throughout the Community, will be as “extinct” as the claims of the Lettori under this anti-democratic, anti-European statute.

  3. anne warren says:

    Is the predicament of the foreign language lecturers in Italian universities a clear example of what Human Rights Watch was referring to in its World Report 2011?

    “Instead of standing up firmly against abusive leaders, many governments, including European Union member states, adopt policies that do not generate pressure for change.”
    Has the EU pressured Italy to change? Hardly – they didn’t even levy a fine!

    “The ritualistic support of ‘dialogue’ and ‘cooperation’ with repressive governments is too often an excuse for doing nothing about human rights,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “The EU’s ‘constructive dialogues’ are among the most egregious examples of this global trend.”
    I suppose the EU has engaged in “constructive” dialogues with Italy (of the type you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours?)
    These putative dialogues have as yet provided little or no benefit for the foreign language lecturers.

  4. John-Paul Thompson says:

    As a foreign language lecturer here in Italy,in litigation with an Italian university for some ten years now, I very much welcome David Petrie’s initiative. Sadly, have that sinking feeling of ‘been there, done that, got the T-shirt’.

    The Italian government’s actions will eventually come to the attention of the European Commission. After a few years of intense scrutiny, Italy will, for a change, find itself before the European Court of Justice There will, after much pain-staking soul-searching, eventually be a sentence; the Italian government, as ever, will simply ignore it.
    A few more years will go by. The ECJ will decide to impose a fine. The Italian government will, as ever, ignore this too.
    A few more years will pass.
    There’ll then be a summit on (choose your topic) with EU leaders. The Italian Prime Minister of the day will be doing his rounds with the usual bravado: ‘Ciao, amico mio, I promisa thata I solva everytheeng. Davida/Nick-a/Ed-a/Nigella/Carolina (insert other UK party leader(s) of your choice).

    They’ll be the usual exchange of pleasantries; comments will include phrases like ‘a bigga misunderstanding’, we’re all togezza in zis’, a Rolex or two may change hands and those few of us foreign lecturers still left to view the whole debacle will say: ‘I told you so’.

  5. Steeds1 says:

    Hi, I am an English/American lawyer who moved to Italy 7 years ago. Since 2007 I have been working at various universities by applying for the bandi and winning. Transparency seems to work here as these people do not know me from Adam but I seem to still win the positions. My husband also holds three positions at different universities. These jobs do not pay a lot but, when taken together over the year, they are a significant part of our income. I also enjoy working at the universities and I feel like I am making a difference.
    I just went to apply for a position which I have held for three consecutive years, and the lady in the President’s office told me I would be excluded from applying. When I asked why, she said that due to Article 23(1) in the law of 30 December 2010, 240, I am only able to apply if (a) I am already employed by a public institution or another business (b) I am a pensioner or (c) I make not less than EUR 40,000 per year.

    Can anyone tell me what is the purpose of this law? Why would anyone who already has a job or makes more than 40 grand want to apply for this position? This reform has been a real blow to me because without these jobs, my husband and I are going to suffer a severe blow to our annual income.

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