Judgment No. 187 of 2016
Paolo GROSSI, President - Giancarlo CORAGGIO, Author of the Judgment
In this case the Court considered several Referral Orders from the Ordinary Tribunals of Rome and Lamezia Terme questioning a provision of a Law that provides for temporarily filling school personnel positions on an annual basis using renewable fixed-term employment contracts, pending the completion of competitive selection procedures for the recruitment of tenured staff. The Referral Orders contended that the provision violated Article 117 of the Constitution, with reference to European Union regulations. After holding that the question was founded despite supervening legislation, since the questioned provision was still the applicable law in the pending proceedings, the Court requested a preliminary ruling from the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for clarification concerning the relevant E.U. regulations. The ECJ held that the use of fixed-term contracts was justified by an adequate objective need, but that the cases under review presented examples of unchecked and unlimited use of successive fixed-term contracts, which was not justified, and, furthermore, that provision had to be made for compensation in cases of abuse that would serve to nullify any damages. After holding that the questioned provision was unconstitutional, the Constitutional Court went on to address the question that was the object of the pending proceedings: whether the ECJ decision necessitated recognizing the right to compensation for damages suffered as a result of a breach by the Italian State. The Court answered in the negative, finding that it falls within the European Member States? competences to determine the punitive implications of violations, and that, even if compensation would have been required at the time the proceedings were initiated, later, supervening legislation had placed the requisite limitations on the repeated use of fixed-term contracts, guaranteeing this measure by the establishment of a fund intended to provide compensatory damages in cases of breach. The Court also held that the compensatory measures enumerated by the ECJ were intended as alternative options, and that it was sufficient for the State to execute only one of the authorized protective measures or other, equivalent measures in order to conform with E.U. regulations. Finally, examining the category of personnel involved in each of the pending proceedings, the Court ruled that, in each of them, the State had provided sufficient measures to nullify damaging effects caused by its abusive use of recurrent fixed-term contracts through supervening legislation, including privileged access to tenured positions and compensatory damages from the established fund.