Lettori in court to claim fines

November 18, 2005

Thirteen foreign-language lecturers at six Italian universities had their day in the European Court of Justice this week to hear how the Italian Government would respond to fines of E309,750 (£208,000) a day until it complies for failing to recognise their employment rights.

The universities were called by the European Commission, which requested the fines pending full Italian recognition of the lettori's (foreign lecturers) rights in a June 2001 judgment. In March 2004, the Italian Government issued a decree to resolve the problem after an earlier draft was rejected by the commission. The case, to be adjudicated by 13 judges, is the fifth to have reached the European Courts.

Cambridge University graduate John Young receives little more than he did in 1985 for teaching English language and literature at Milan's state university, despite a local court decision that his salary should be pegged to that of an associate professor.

Mr Young said before the hearing: "I will have the national wage tables in my pocket showing that an Italian associate professor gets more than double [my salary]."

Mark Eaton, who has been teaching at the University of Pisa for 20 years, said: "I've been waiting for justice for so long that I want to be there when it happens."

Edinburgh University law professor Sir Neil MacCormick QC MEP, who backed the lecturers, described Italy's failure to honour their rights, despite the rulings, as one of Europe's great scandals.

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