Authorities cracking down on absenteeism? We’ll see.

loretomare2It’s amazing. Despite the fact that in recent years people have frequently gotten caught in very-well publicized investigations at post offices and ministries, a huge number of Italian public employees are apparently still convinced they can get away with it. Not murder, of course, but absenteeism taken to ridiculous extremes.

This time it happened at Naples’ Loreto Mare hospital where earlier this week, at the end of a two-year inquiry, Carabinieri arrested 55 employees out of a total of 94 under investigation. Representing almost third of the clinic’s entire work staff, the accused – most of whom are now under house arrest, some being escorted to work daily by police – included a neurologist, a gynecologist, four other doctors, nine radiology technicians, six administrative clerks, nine maintenance technicians  and ten social assistants. All of them appeared to have found ways to punch in to their jobs, or to punch their colleagues in, while at the same time turning their attention elsewhere. Some were out playing tennis, one was working as a chef in a local restaurant, others went shopping or to the gym.

The mayor of Naples. Luigi de Magistris says the arrests represent “a shameful page that wounds the heart and dignity of this city” and called for “strong measures” to be taken. The president of the Campania region, Vincenzo De Luca, promises that “we will be inflexible when it comes to those who do not do their duty”. But the failure to apply serious disciplinary measures may be the real problem. Often in these cases the authorities have been unable to do more than suspend the guilty for only a few days and punishments have amounted to little more than a slap on the wrist.

Now, however, things should change. A new clause in the laws governing the employees of the public administration, says that in the case of such infractions – when evidence exists that they have clocked in but then left the rpemises –  people can be fired within 30 days. For those instead who claim to be absent for health reasons but who are not at home when the government doctor shows up, suspension from their jobs should take place within 48 hours. Personnel officials who turn a blind eye to such abuses will also be subject to dismissal.

We shall see.

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