Reportage. Temporary workers for the Italian National Research Council say “It is an unacceptable situation. We are professionals who have the right to a permanent contract.”

Italian scientists rise up against budget cuts and precarious contracts

The workers on temporary contracts at the Italian National Research Council (CNR) have occupied the offices in Rome and Palermo. They are protesting against the paltry funds available in the budget law for new hires and permanent staff.

From 2019, the allotment will be €90 million (€76.5 million for the universities and €13.5 million for research institutions supervised by the Ministry of Education, Universities and Research). Currently, there are provisions for 1,304 new positions for university researchers and 307 at research institutions.

These numbers are inadequate for the needs of a system that is collapsing due to the €1.5 billion slashed over the past decade. At the National Research Council alone, the largest research body, there are nearly 3,000 researchers and staff hired on temporary contracts. The CNR cannot guarantee extensions for temporary workers whose contracts are “expiring” at the end of the year, not to mention for the research grants that might not be renewed.

All the while, one must take into account that the Madia Law calls for 50,000 temporary positions to be made permanent starting Jan. 1. The temporary workers for the CNR, some of which have been in this condition for 10 or 20 years, run the risk of not qualifying for this provision.

“It is an unacceptable situation. We are professionals who have the right to a permanent contract,” the Precari Uniti CNR (United Temporary Workers of the CNR) said in a statement. “The necessary resources should be provided in the budget law in order to make the entire staff permanent.”

In Florence on Thursday, temporary employees at the research institutions INDIRE, the National Research Council in Pisa, INAF, ISPRA and CREA organized a demonstration and put together a flash mob. They denounced the “evil condition” of publicly funded research, “having allowed the state of job insecurity to become chronic, as if it was the normal situation, without allowing staff to settle into their roles and without implementing a program of recruitment.“

According to the FLC-CGIL, a union taking part in the mobilization together with FIR CISL, the government “forgot about the researchers, and the other professionals that are indispensable for research: technologists, technicians and administrative staff. Funding must be increased tenfold.” In the Senate, the Democratic Party and the Italian Left have both tabled amendments to the budget proceedings aimed at making the positions of temporary workers permanent.

After sending a letter Friday to President of the Republic Mattarella, the temporary employees of the CNR organized a demonstration in Rome, together with students. It will be the day of “the redemption of public universities.”

Protest meetings were to be held at 13 universities, from Turin to Messina, demanding a refinancing of education, because the “narrow path” of the current budget law is not offering it. Furthermore, associations of high school students (Rete Studenti, UDS) and college students (UDU, Rete della Conoscenza, Link) have announced 50 marches in different cities against the Italian policy of “school-work alternation” (mandatory unpaid internships for students).

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