ITALY - The European Commission has warned Italy it needs to comply with a European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling to equalise pension ages for civil servants or it may face another court hearing.

In 2008 the ECJ ruled that Italy's civil servant pension scheme managed by INPDAP (national providence Institute for the Employees of Public Authorities) was discriminatory by applying different pension ages for male and female workers.

The ruling followed on from an infringement process on the issue initiated by the Commission in 2005. Italy announced in June 2009 it would be taking measures to gradually equalise the ages by 2018, but the Commission has now issued the country with a letter of formal notice requesting compliance with the judgement because the current proposals "allow discriminatory treatment to continue".

In a statement, the Commision noted the ECJ had confirmed several times that civil servants' pensions must be considered as pay and as employer pension schemes, and in June 2009 the Commission issued an earlier letter of formal notice against Italy because it had failed to comply with the ruling.

Italy stated last year it had introduced new provisions that would phase in an equal pension age for staff working in public service by 2018. The retirement age for female employees would increase gradually and only be equalised at the same age as men - whose legal retirement age is fixed at 65 - in 2018.

However, the Commission has since argued that according to EU case law "this transitional measure continues to apply discriminatory treatment and is therefore inadequate". It stated: "The Commission has therefore decided to issue an additional letter of formal notice to Italy under Art 260(1) TFEU asking the Italian authorities to comply with the judgement".

Should Italy still fail to take what the Commission deems appropriate action, the next step could be for the country to be taken before the ECJ again, which may result in a second ruling with a financial penalty for the member state.