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Thursday, March 23, 2023

Labour mobility – EU Commission calls on ITALY to put an end to discrimination of foreign lecturers

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The European Commission decided to send a reasoned opinion to  Italy (INFR(2021)4055) for failing to comply with EU rules on free movement of workers (Regulation (EU) No 492/2011). Under EU law, EU citizens who exercise their right to free movement must not be discriminated against because of their nationality as regards access to employment and working conditions. In its ruling in case C-119/04, the Court of Justice of the European Union stated that a 2004 Italian law provides an acceptable framework for the so-called reconstruction of careers of foreign lecturers (‘Lettori’) in Italian universities.

This means that the law allows for the adjustment of their salary, seniority and corresponding social security benefits to those of a researcher under a part-time contract, and it grants them the right to back-payments as of the start of their employment. However, the majority of universities did not take the steps needed for a correct reconstruction of the Lettori’s careers, the result being that most foreign lecturers have still not received the money to which they are entitled.

Italy has not adopted the necessary measures since the launch of the infringement procedure in September 2021 and is therefore still discriminating against foreign lecturers. Italy now has two months to take the necessary measures, otherwise the Commission may decide to refer the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union.

This threat was issued today by the Commission to take Italy before the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in two months if Italy fails to pay the arrears  in wages and pensions of its non-Italian lecturers.

On a statement sent to The European Times, David Petrie, chairman of the lecturers union Association of Foreign Lecturers in Italy said today: 

“Our warm thanks to the European Commission for issuing a clear and robust statement today. After almost 12 years since the reporting of the violation of EU law represented by the Gelmini Law 240/2010 that thwarted the effect of Italian law 63 of 2004 which according to the case law of the Court of Justice should have been implemented, the Commission has finally closed the preliminary infringement procedure formally opened in September 2021 and announced the start of legal action for failure to fulfil obligations against Italy before the Court of Justice. Italy has 60 days notice through the notification of the reasoned opinion provided for by art. 258 TFEU, to adjust the remuneration, seniority and social security contributions of the foreign lecturers to the parameter of at least tenured researcher on fixed-term contracts with payment of arrears from the beginning of the employment relationship. This is finally a clear stance in the face of the evasive behaviour of the Italian legislator and university administrations, which have in recent years failed to adopt the necessary measures to overcome the ongoing discrimination against foreign lecturers in Italy, which has persisted since 1980 despite numerous interventions by the European Union and the Court of Justice.”

From his side, Henry Rodgers, a lettore himself very active with Asso. CEL.L, and the FLC CGIL trade union, has said in his latest article that:

As Guardian of the Treaties, it is the task of the Commission to ensure that the commitments made by the member states in Rome and other subsequent Treaty cities are respected. That it has had to open second infringement proceedings to compel implementation of the ruling resulting from the first proceedings is the measure of how intransigent and resistant Italy has been. News that the proceedings had been moved to the reasoned opinion stage was warmly welcomed in universities across Italy. The decision was seen as a serious statement of the Commission’s intent to ensure full compliance with the Court sentence of 2006.

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