British lecturers in Italian universities battling to end "30 years of discrimination" have won support from members of the Cabinet and the Conservative Shadow Cabinet.
Non-Italian lecturers teaching in their own languages, known as lettori, claim they are still being discriminated against on pay and access to jobs, despite a series of judgments in their favour in the European Court of Justice (ECJ).
Now Chris Bryant, Minister for Europe, has agreed to meet British lettori later this month to discuss the issue.
A Foreign Office spokesman said Mr Bryant was "sympathetic" to their concerns and would be raising the issue with his Italian counterpart.
William Hague, the Conservative Shadow Foreign Secretary, said: "The Government needs to address the situation of British lecturers in Italy. The principle of non-discrimination on grounds of nationality is crucial to the single market."
The lettori are seeking parity of treatment under European Union single-market rules with regard to salary scales, pensions, social security rights and access to jobs.
Lecturers met officials of the European Commission in Brussels and Foreign Office officials in London late last year, when they handed over a dossier showing that in a sample of 255 lettori in 18 Italian universities, 83 per cent were still being denied their rights as interpreted by the ECJ.
David Petrie, who works at the University of Verona and is chairman of the foreign lecturers' group Allisi, said: "For almost 30 years we've been up against the persistent refusal of the Italian university authorities to pay foreign lecturers on the same scale as Italian lecturers, to recognise continuity of employment and to hold fair competitions for full academic posts - all of which have been found to be in breach of European law and are mass systematic breaches of the treaty."
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