British lecturers wins damages over promotion block

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The Independent Online

Three British lecturers have been awarded damages after claiming they were illegally blocked from promotion by an Italian university because of their nationality, it was disclosed today.

The judgment by Italy's supreme court for administrative matters, the Consiglio di Stato, follows a 15-year legal battle by David Petrie, Robert Hill and David Newbold.

In 1995, the three applied for a temporary promoted post teaching English at the University of Verona in the faculty where they were already employed.

But they said they were excluded from applying because they did not have the prerequisite Italian qualifications.

Mr Petrie, a graduate of Dundee University, and Oxford University graduates Mr Hill and Mr Newbold, were each awarded 6,000 euros (£5,252) in damages and 5,000 euros (£4,385) legal costs, according to the court judgment dated September 24.

It came after the Venice Regional Tribunal previously rejected their claim for damages even after a Venice Administrative Tribunal ruled the university had violated the EU Treaty which prohibits discrimination based on nationality.

Mr Petrie, who still works as an English language lecturer at the University of Verona, chairs the Association of Foreign Lecturers in Italy which campaigns for equality for overseas staff.

He said: "Delighted as I am with this judgment, it is always welcome to see a principle established, it nevertheless raises a few questions.

"How come it takes 15 years to get any compensation? And can the damage be undone?

"What kind of people are sitting on faculty boards in Italian Universities, where repeated violation in open contempt of a binding judgment of the European Court of Justice is widespread?

"Our lawyers recently provided the European Commission with information showing that the Universities of Cagliari, Cassino, Ferrara, Florence, Genova, Messina, Palermo, Perugia, Siena, Urbino and Udine continue to advertise posts in a way that would exclude non-Italian applicants with qualifications obtained in their home countries.

"So what does that tell you about the swaggering barons in Italian universities?"

Mr Petrie is a lecturer in English - a position called a "lettore" with entitlement to equivalent pay of an associate professor.

The post the men applied for was a part-time temporary post giving the title of Professor and points on the road to full tenure, he said.

Mr Petrie said he and his fellow lecturers would meet Europe Minister David Lidington on October 28 to ask him to take up the "plight" of British lecturers with the Italian government and help end the "illegal discrimination" of lettori.