Relief as jobs-for-life rejig stalls

August 5, 2005

Radical reforms of the national employment conditions for university lecturers and researchers working in Italy, scheduled to become law by now, have become bogged down in parliament.

Approval will be delayed until at least September. The delay has been generally greeted with satisfaction by Italy's higher education establishment, which sees the changes as a threat to the security of the existing system of national lifelong contracts and uniform pay scales based exclusively on seniority.

The reforms introduce finite contracts for lecturers and researchers, and give universities a degree of autonomy in hiring staff directly with independently established salaries.

"This delay will give us more time to organise protests against the reform," said Nunzio Miraglia of Palermo University, the co-ordinator of the National Association of University Lecturers.

The Rectors' Conference also attacked the reform package, arguing that it could not be implemented unless the Government drastically increased financing of higher education.

The association took the rectors to task for failing to oppose the legislation with sufficient vigour. It says in a statement: "They should resign... everyone is asking the minister to stop, but she continues along her path... (the legislation) goes in the direction of the abolition of the national legal status of lecturers.

"There has been no response to any of the requests emerging from the protest of the university world at an attempt to impose, at whatever cost, legislation that completes the demolition of the state universities." The association adds that this leaves "the way open to those who want to manage in a private-sector manner the public resources for universities and research".

The higher education employment reform is likely to face another obstacle on its way through parliament - a surprising number of MPs have held a university post and, in the past, attempts to weaken the security of university staff has met with silent, but steadfast, resistance.

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