UK Government praises embattled British lettori
LONDON – The British Government has paid rare tribute to the work of beleaguered British lecturers in Italian universities in contributing to relations between the two countries and indicated that resolving the wrangle over Italian discrimination against foreign academics will be a priority for the new UK ambassador in the Eternal City.
“The UK and Italy have a close, long-standing relationship, and I am proud of the contribution British Lettori have made to educational exchange between our two countries,” Wendy Morton, the then Minister for Europe and Americas said in a letter to Deirdre Brock, the MP representing David Petrie, the head of the ALLSI association of foreign lecturers in Italy.
Responding to a question from Ms Brock, Ms Morton added that she shared Mr Petrie’s concern over the also longstanding conundrum over Italian universities failing to give equal pay to lettori who were downgraded from associate professors to language technicians and had their salaries slashed by half overnight under the so-called Gelmini law brought in by a centre-right government headed by media mogul and convicted fraudster Silvio Berlusconi.
“The UK Government has been following closely the issue Mr Petrie raises for several years and Ministers and officials have raised it with Italian ministers, university administrators and others,” Ms Morton added. Despite the raising the lettori have not received a raise, however, and many struggle to survive in poverty on pathetic pensions after a lifelong deviotion to their students.
“We will continue to advocate for a solution. Most recently, we have noted with interest the steps the European Commission has taken and have been following the outcomes closely.” The Commission recently threatened infringement proceedings against Italy if it does not pay back pay due to lettori.
Ms Morton added that “I know that Mr Petrie is in contact with our Embassy in Rome, and encourage him to continue to work with them on this important issue.”
The Foreign Office has yet to announce who will be Britain’s next man or woman on the Tiber following the imminent departure of Jill Morris, the current UK ambassador.
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