Unions take on Italy's baroni

July 17, 1998

THE Italian national confederation of trade unions has called for radical reforms in the way academics are employed.

Possibly for the first time in Italian history, the unions are also demanding cuts in the cast-iron security, privileges and freedom from controls and discipline enjoyed by a specific species of employees.

The unions are demanding that the job definitions of professor, associate professor and researcher be unified into a single category. They also want an end to automatic career advancement through seniority and regular evaluation of each academic's productivity in both teaching and scientific research.

In the unlikely event that the unions should have their way, given the huge resistance to change in Italy's academic establishment and its excellent leverage in the world of politics, even senior academic "barons" would be subject to an examination every four years to ascertain how much work they have been doing and of what quality.

The unions' demands are an attack on the freedom from controls that allows many academics, particularly in the lucrative professions, to dedicate most of their time to private practice rather than to teaching and research.

Italy's labour unions have prepared this list of demands in preparation for what they describe as a "confrontation with the government" over the reforms they consider necessary in Italy's state universities.

Andrea Ranieri, education expert for Italy's largest union, the CGIL, said:

"If there were a Maastricht for the universities Italy would not be in Europe."

University minister Luigi Berlinguer expressed approval of the unions' suggestions, and said: "In our university system there is a tendency to maintain positions of invulnerability. Instead we must strive towards a total involvement of lecturers in the university."

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