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The Association “Coordinamento Nazionale TFA”, after fighting for years against the exploitation of temporary workers in school, obtained from the Government some amendments to the legislation that safeguard temporary workers in school with a specialization degree for teaching and granting them a path for an undetermined time contract.

A necessary premise

I learned about Coordinamento TFA because from time to time I also enjoy lecturing, thus some of my friends are school teachers or university Professors, and some of these friends are also members of the association. Being a fellow at The Good Lobby means also giving voice (or a different voice, in this case) to noteworthy realities, and I have to thank the Association “Coordinamento Nazionale TFA” for letting me tell their story. The original text has been provided by Sara Piersantelli, good friend and President of Coordinamento TFA. I translated it and tried to tell their story from my perspective, to make it more comprehensible for those who are not familiar with the Italian political background.

Background

“Associazione Coordinamento Nazionale TFA” (Coordination TFA hereinafter) is one of those long names we like to use in Italy. For non-Italian speakers, the name stands for “Association for the National Coordination of the Qualifying Educational Apprenticeship” (TFA is the acronym for Tirocinio Formativo Attivo). Long name, yet simple and bitter reality behind it. There are several ways to become a secondary school teacher, and one of these is this special apprenticeship which has been branded by the Italian Minister who promoted it as “the toughest and most professionalizing apprenticeship to become a secondary school teacher”.

Why is such apprenticeship needed, you might ask. Well, to understand a bit the rationale behind it, you first need to know that in Italy the access to education set ties with politics since the very beginning of our Republic. Historically, education has always been a prerogative of the Left, and the arm wrestling between Governments and Labor Unions revolved around the possibility for teachers under a determined time contract, to become teachers under an indeterminate time contract (the latter are employed by the Ministry of Education and are Civil Servants, with all the relative benefits).

This constant bargain generated an excess of offer of people working as teachers under a determined time contract, and practically fed an almost infinite waiting list, with no concrete possibility for very qualified individuals – such as the TFA laureates – to access it and eventually become secondary school teachers. As the TFA laureates put it, you can imagine that this list is based on dynamics far from meritocracy, and is based on Labor Union’s membership, political support and age.

Government on one side, Labor Unions on the other, the TFA laureates were doomed to see their “tough and most professionalizing apprenticeship” thrown away and disregarded by a nefarious game of politics. This is how the story of Coordination TFA begins: when the young TFA laureates realized that no one would have lobbied for their interests, they decided to do it themselves.

First steps and the Italian reform of education of 2015

Although it started its activities in 2013, the Coordination TFA was formally constituted as an association in 2015, with a statute and several administrative bodies. It counts around 3000 members from all over Italy, laureates from the infamous apprenticeship. More in detail, membership ranges from being a simple member, up to the “coordinator” role, which is further divided into local, regional and national coordinators. At the core of the association there is the idea that education is at the very basis of a healthy democracy: to grant the best education possible, the Government has to hire the most qualified teachers, in order for them to build an effective relationship with students and offer the best possible education with continuity.

Coordinamento TFA first debate on school organized at the Italian Chamber of Deputies (Italian Parliament), Palazzo Montecitorio, 2015.

The work of Coordination TFA started in 2013 with an intense dialogue with the political parties during the discussion of a major amendment to the national education system, adopted in 2015 (Legge 107 del 2015). After two years presenting amendments and insisting with parliamentary questions, the Association convinced the political parties to insert in the legislation a specific recognition of the TFA apprenticeship, which gave to the laureates extra points in the 2016 upcoming competition to win a permanent contract with the Ministry of Education. Besides the obvious lobbying to parliamentarians and senators, the Coordination TFA was – and still is – very active on the Internet, through Twitter and Facebook. The reason behind it was more practical than strategical: with its members spread all over Italy, and without any financial support other than a self-imposed levy of the founding members, financing conferences and travels was too expensive. However, what started from a need, soon became an effective way of managing the Association and publicizing its actions.

The European chapter

Despite what seemed to be a successful effort, the 2015 reform still presented some problems, notably with a paragraph forbidding the temporary contracts signed after September 2016 to cover certain vacant posts, to last more than 36 months. Thus, the Coordination TFA decided to use one of the tools of our European democracy: a parliamentary petition. Parliamentary Petition No 0024/2016 gained the European Parliament’s support and is currently one of the 10 most supported Parliamentary Petitions ever. However, after having been supported, a petition has to be analysed by the European Commission to take action on the matter. More than a year passed, but the Commission informed the Coordination TFA that the petition is still in queue for analysis, as the number of supporters does not grant any preemption right.

The implementation phase

Awaiting the outcome of the European Commission’s analysis, Coordination TFA focused on the implementation of the 2015 reform, as the legislation contained several empowerments for the Government. Thanks to its nation-wide recognized presence, Coordination TFA was formally invited to participate in several parliamentary hearings in the parliamentary commissions for culture of both Parliament and Senate, where it upheld its views with coherence and respect for the Institutions. This led to another good result: one of the Government’s delegated acts fully enshrined the Coordination TFA’s requests, showing how constant dialogue and high-profile negotiation won the Government’s trust. One of the most striking features of this Association is its ability to make a point without calling a strike or making a demonstration, differently from what the Labor Unions are used to do in this sector.

What is the Coordination TFA doing today?

Today the association keeps on fighting to protect the TFA laureates, still working under a temporary contract, that will have to participate to future competition while the Government is finishing the implementation of the 2015 reform. On the European side, they are searching for associations with similar stories or goals, to scale up their interactions and proposal for a good school at European level. If you are interested, why not getting in touch? You can contact them at abilitati.tfa@gmail.com.

Former Minister of Education Luigi Berlinguer and Sara Piersantelli, President of Coordinamento TFA at the Italian Chamber of Deputies, July 2017.

*Alessandro El Khoury is a lawyer expert in data protection, Fellow at The Good Lobby (Twitter @alelkhoury).

**Sara Piersantelli is President of “Associazione Coordinamento Nazionale TFA” and Professor of Italian literature, history and geography at the Italian Ministry of Education (sara.piersantelli@gmail.com, Twitter @SPiersantelli).

ASSOCIAZIONE COORDINAMENTO NAZIONALE TIROCINIO FORMATIVO ATTIVO: AN ITALIAN STORY

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