SACI: FLC CGIL Union's evaluation

In the crisis caused by the pandemic to the institutions offering university education courses to American students in Florence, SACI is one that has shown the greatest difficulties. We have tried to keep an open channel with the institute for the management of the restructuring process, but we have never been able to obtain clear information on the strategies for the future.

After a period of substantial inactivity following communication from the company lawyer who spoke of a probable cessation of activity, we discover from the SACI website that there have been changes in the context that are made public without any information to the workers and their trade union representatives. We have therefore decided to make our assessments, already communicated to the institute, also public.

Dear President and Board members,

It has been over a month since the last meeting with faculty and staff representatives. Apart from three statements posted on the SACI website, we must unfortunately note the continuing silence on the real plans of the school and the lack of a clear strategy, despite the mobilization of alumni and their various initiatives.

These statements only increase the uncertainty regarding SACI’s situation and the future of its employees, and we would like to respond to them here to clarify the situation:

1)  It is disconcerting that instead of informing staff and faculty representatives, SACI chooses its website to disseminate news of a confidential nature concerning the management of the school. In any case, the reticent and incomplete statements were posted solely and exclusively as a result of alumni activity on social networks and the petition on, which to date has collected over 1100 signatures, and are certainly not an expression of a spontaneous willingness to collaborate.

2)  It is equally questionable that this choice was made after having kept employees in the dark for months, despite their repeated requests for information. This conduct shows a lack of respect for those who at other times had been defined 'the heart of the school'.

3)  It is paradoxical therefore that the President and the Board mention "misinformation" when this was triggered by the management's refusal to communicate and by statements made by SACI's own lawyer who, when announcing the cancellation of the fall term, spoke clearly of the forthcoming closure of the school.

4)  Much of what is said in the three statements - and particularly in the last one - is vague and does not suggest the existence of a coherent strategy. Initiatives with the US consulate, philanthropic institutions, the EU Recovery Fund, a previously rejected fundraiser and sharing recruitment strategies are mentioned, but no concrete information is given and these statements have not been followed by any concrete action. We point out that the current president was explicitly hired five years ago to work on fundraising.

5)  The President and the Board claim that when Fall was canceled there were few deposits. But the fact is that current management had dismantled the recruiting office in New York, started late the recruiting procedure for the Fall term which was then canceled well in advance of the natural deadline (June 15), despite more than promising enrolments preventing therefore more deposits from being made.

6)  As for the debts made public in the second press release (13 April), it is not clear, if SACI really intends to continue its activity, why it needs to dispose immediately of the entire amount, when just a part of it would be sufficient to survive until the first running term (Spring 2022).

7)  The President and Board’s statements claim that the employees are receiving State financial support (Cassa Integrazione) thanks to the current management, when in fact this is an obligation and a State aid (not from SACI) which alleviates substantially the finances of the school from the burden of salaries’ cost. Moreover, the amounts received by teachers and staff are a fraction (€ 6.00 gross per hour) of the salary due and barely allow survival. The President and the Board boast about a series of activities (suspension of loan repayments, PPP loans in the USA, furloughs), which are opportunities offered by governments, thanks to which they have reduced costs at the expense of employees.

8)  It is incorrect for the management to justify its decision to cancel the Fall term also because of unsatisfactory management of the vaccination process in Italy when it is known that the distribution of vaccines took place on a European basis: this statement is based on a prejudice against the country that has hosted it for 46 years and has been the one of the main attractions to students worldwide. The President and Board perhaps do not remember that this is the same vaccination process that has allowed the immunization of school teachers and personnel at all levels for free.

9)  The most glaring gap, in the statements, is that nothing, absolutely nothing is said about what the plans of the management are, or whether there is a willingness to continue the almost fifty years of the school.

10) The President claimed that he had sought support from SACI's traditional partner schools, forgetting that in the current crisis they are more our competitors than our supporters. It is certainly an organizational mistake to have decided, well before the pandemic, to cancel programs (such as the MFA and Post-bac) available to independent students and therefore not subject to the diktats of home schools. These students, who attend one or two years, in addition to a timely recruitment and fundraising campaign, would have allowed the survival and continuity of SACI's activity.

11) All of the above denotes, unless more convincing and well-founded denials of the recent posts have appeared, lack of initiative and of the will to keep SACI alive and protect the jobs and the future of its employees.

Much more remains to be defined and we reserve the right to do so. What is certain is that this wait-and-see strategy, which takes advantage of the late and largely inadequate state contributions, doesn’t offer any hope or a plan to justify the sacrifices made by the employees. It is also very dangerous, if imagining a future for the school, because it allows more efficient and timely competitors to quickly and irreversibly take advantage of the vacuum left by SACI, if only for a semester.

We ask you, in compliance with the desire to "keep the channels of communication open" advocated in the Board's last letter, to schedule urgently a meeting with the faculty and staff representatives and myself, during which you will be able to answer without reticence the many legitimate questions on the future of the institution.

Kind regards,

The FLC CGIL of Florence General Secretariat
The FLC CGIL Union Representatives in SACI



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