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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 February 2004, 17:21 GMT
Italy faces fines over teachers
lecturer
Ninety Britons were affected
Italy could face record fines for discriminating against foreign language teachers at its universities.

The European Commission is calling for a daily fine of 309,750 euros (200,000) because Italian foreign language teachers are better paid than lecturers from other EU countries who work in Italy.

It made the call to the European Court of Justice, which will now consider the level of fines.

In 2001, that court ruled that Italian

universities were in breach of EU discrimination laws.

After the ruling Italian universities did not offer foreign lecturers the same pay and conditions as their Italian counterparts but instead brought in new contracts to try to justify the different treatment.

The move effectively downgraded the foreign lecturers' jobs to match their lower pay and conditions in an attempt to avoid accusations of discrimination.

Campaign

Ninety Britons working in Italian universities were suspended for refusing to sign the new contracts.

The Italian government did not intervene, saying universities were independent.

David Petrie, chairman of the Association of Foreign Lecturers, led the campaign for equal rights, which are guaranteed under the EU.

The cause has been backed by Euro MPs and has produced four European Court decisions against the universities.




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