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 “we’re bust – we can’t pay” and the state is saying “we won’t pay”. Can’t pay/won’t 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.