Expats fight for justice in Italy

EXPATRIATE LECTURERS in Italy say universities are continuing to flout European Union employment law on pay and rights, despite court rulings and an official reprimand from Brussels. They say rather than grant them parity with Italians, universities from Trento to Catania are trying to force them to take pay cuts and sign away their acquired rights. They are being told that if they refuse there will be job losses and restructuring.

Foreign language lecturers have been battling for more than a decade for recognition that they are not just colourful figures there to lend a hand to the real teachers and a touch of authenticity to language courses. In most Italian universities they carry out 90 per cent of the teaching, plus writing, supervising and marking exams. But many of them net as little as one million lire (pounds 357) a month, as opposed to the three million lire of a native Italian.

"One of the most recent breaches was at the Universita Frederico II in Naples where 19 lecturers received a registered letter telling them to report to the personnel office within 48 hours and sign new contracts, which drastically curtailed their salaries and rights. Failure to do so would mean their employment was terminated," saidDavid Petrie, a tenacious Scot, the founder and president of the Association for the Defence of Foreign Lecturers.

From his home in Verona, Mr Petrie directs an incessant flow of faxes, letters, press releases and legal challenges. Over the years his pursuit of justice has become an obsession. Several times he has taken to court his own university in Verona - and won - but is still waiting to see his legal victory translated into reality.

He is not alone. About 1,000 of the estimated 1,500 foreign language lecturers in Italy are involved in legal proceedings.

"The ridiculous thing is that even Italian judges have upheld our claims but the university boards and rectors simply refuse to comply. The ministry says the universities are autonomous but I bet no university back in Britain would ever claim they were above the law," added Mr Petrie.

The trials and tribulations of the lettore stranieri go back some years. Foreigners were traditionally employed on annual renewable contracts until their case became a test of EUcredibility, regarding the equal treatment of European nationals within each state.

The foreign lecturers won two landmark rulings. The first, at the European Court of Justice in 1995, established that, because Italian lecturers had open-ended contracts, non- nationals should have the same. "After the 1995 ruling, the authorities simply shifted the goalposts. They offered us new open-ended contracts but for a different job. We are no longer lecturers but collaboratori linguistici, linguistic collaborators, on worse wages and conditions than before," Mr Petrie said. In 1996 14 lecturers in Salerno were fired for refusing to sign new contracts.

The second sentence declared that the lecturers had been discriminated against and were entitled to back pay including arrears of pension and social security contributions.

A year ago, the European Commission decided to bring a case against Italy before the European Court of Justice regarding the acquired rights of the lecturers. In September, the Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs, Padraig Flynn, warned Italy that if "swift and comprehensive action" was not taken to bring foreign lecturers' contracts into line with European law "the Commission would not hesitate to proceed with legal action".

"To placate Brussels, the Ministry for Universities presented a letter sent to all rectors urging them to fall into line. Yet in a separate note to state lawyers last month, it said the European Commission was well disposed towards `definitively closing the case' or in layman's terms, dropping it," said Mr Petrie.

However, it appears that the Commission has no intention of letting things slip and at a 2 December meeting it agreed to continue legal proceedings.

While Mr Petrie and his 400-odd followers hope a European solution will guarantee their status and conditions, other foreign lecturers are battling through the Italian union system.

"It's really getting out of hand," said John Gilbert, a New Yorker teaching in Florence and a member of CGIL, Italy's largest trade union. "University after university is resorting to bully tactics. They put lecturers in a position where if they want their legally won rights to be respected they have to accept that another colleague may lose his job through `restructuring'. The overall losers are not only we lecturers but also our students," he said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Life and Style
food + drink
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
filmSony could have made a cult classic
Life and Style
fashionThe essential guide to all the designer Christmas sale dates
News
news... you won't believe how bad their skills were
News
people

Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright and Mark Wright
tvStrictly goes head-to-head with Apprentice
Sport
footballPremier League preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's clashes
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas