Countdown to end Italy's 35 year lettori shame

David Petrie with MP Andrew Bridgen

ROME - A British MP has demanded the "35-year injustice" against foreign lecturers in Italy's universities end immediately as UK Ambassador Christopher Prentice keeps up pressure on Prime Minister Matteo Renzi to compensate the lecturers in his stability law package, diplomatic sources say. David Petrie, the Scottish head of the ALLSI lecturers' union, says he is cautiously optimistic that an end to his long battle to obtain justice for hundreds of members working in universities around Italy at last may be in sight over the next three months.

 "Both the British and Italian governments are actively engaging on this," Prof. Petrie said, "the British Ambassador has raised the matter persistently with the Italian education minister." 

 For Ambassador Prentice, expected to leave Rome at the end of the year after his posting twice was extended, resolving the lettori scandal under which British and other European lecturers had their salaries halved overnight, would climax his illustrious career by eliminating a dispute that has strained traditionally friendly relations between the UK and Italy. 

 While some previous ambassadors have paid lip service to ending the rebus Christopher Prentice has been the first of Her Majesty's Men on the Tiber to engage personally with the often opaque Italian education ministry and officials too often beholden to byzantine university rectors, observers say.
 Official sources say the Italian education ministry mandarins hopes that provision for restoring the lettori to their previous status and pay will be included in the upcoming Renzi government financial stability law expected to be passed by Parliament by early next year.
 British MPs representing lecturers from their constituencies also are maintaining pressure on the UK government not to drag its feet on the thorny matter.
“For several years I have been raising the issue of discrimination against the lettori, foreign lecturers in Italian universities,"  Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen for North West Leicestershire said last month in a parliamentary question in the House of Commons.
 "Despite the best efforts of consecutive United Kingdom Governments and our ambassadors in Rome, the issue remains unresolved.” 
  “Next month, the Pontignano conference will bring UK and Italian officials together. May we have a statement from the Government on what we can do to ensure that this 35-year injustice is brought to an end immediately?”
  There was no statement though leader of the House, Chris Grayling, welcomed Bridgen’s request and noted indirectly that the European Commission repeatedly has turned a blind eye on starting infringement proceedings against Italy for the vicious discrimination.
 “I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for his assiduousness in pursuing the issue,” said Grayling.
 “I sometimes wish that those in Brussels would pay attention to and sort out problems that are extant, rather than simply continuing to seek more powers for themselves.”
 The Pontignano conference being held Oct. 1-2 is organised by the British Embassy and is attended by senior officials and pundits of both countries though it generally is focussed on lofty questions of political philosophy, washed down with fine Chianti wines, rather than deigning to consider the nitty gritty of British citizens struggling to survive in Italy at the bottom of the educational food chain.
 Earlier this year the European Parliament ordered the European Commission to carry out an urgent examination of discriminatory laws against foreign lecturers working in Italy.
 The blatantly discriminant nature of the Gelmini law and other Italian education laws already has been condemned on several occasions by the European courts and yet Prof. Petrie's union members contibue to suffer pay cuts of up to 60 percent, job insecurity and a lack of pension contributions.
 The Gelmini law passed during the right-wing government of Silvio Berlusconi downgraded lettori from associate professors to language laboratory technicians.
















Prof. Petrie takes up the cudgels at the European Parliament