EU Commission refers Italy to European Court of Justice for discrimination against foreign lecturers

 BRUSSELS - The European Commission decided Friday to refer Italy to the Court of Justice of the European Union for failing to end longstanding discrimination of foreign lecturers working in Italian universities, the Commission said in a statement.

 “This is because Italy does not adequately enforce national law implementing EU rules on the free movement of workers (Regulation (EU) No 492/2011 and Article 45 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union),” the Commission said in a statement. The Commission had warned Italy last year it faced infringement proceedings over failing to compensate hundreds of lettori for discrimination, but the Italian government dragged its heels over responding. The latest Commission move was welcomed by David Petrie, chair of the Association of Foreign Lecturers in Italy, ALLSI who with his union members has campaigned for 25 years for an end to the discrimination against foreign lecturers working in Italian campuses.

 The Commission added that “under EU law, EU citizens who exercise their right to free movement must not be discriminated because of their nationality as regards access to employment and working conditions. Italian law provides an acceptable framework for the so-called reconstruction of careers of foreign lecturers (‘Lettori') in Italian universities. This has been recognised by the Court of Justice of the European Union in case C-119/04.”

 “However, to date, the majority of universities in Italy did not take the steps needed for a correct reconstruction of the Lettori's careers. This includes the adjustment of their salary, seniority and corresponding social security benefits to those of a researcher under a part-time contract. It also includes the right to back-payments as of the start of their employment. As a consequence, most foreign lecturers have still not received the money and benefits to which they are entitled.”

 “The Commission launched the infringement procedure against Italy in 2021 and followed up with a reasoned opinion in January 2023. Despite the national legislation and the Court ruling, foreign lecturers continue to be discriminated against. This is why the Commission is now referring Italy to the Court of Justice of the European Union,” the Commission said.

 Article 45 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) prohibits discrimination of EU citizens on the basis of their nationality in another EU Member State when it comes to access to employment and conditions of work.

 This Treaty provision is further detailed in Regulation (EU) No 492/2011 on the freedom of movement for workers. Article 7(1) prohibits Member States from treating EU workers differently from national workers based on their nationality in respect of any conditions of employment and work, in particular as regards remuneration.



David Petrie, ALLSI Chair, with Deirdre Brock MP, who has lobbied for the lettori