Florence, city council-museum workers tug-of-war over Christmas opening

Florence, City Council asks museum workers to work even on Christmas Day. But workers protest: little notice and already planned vacations. The decision, however, is made, and now they negotiate over the surcharges.

In Florence, there is a tug-of-war between the City Council and museum workers over whether to work on Christmas and New Year’s Day. In fact, the unions (Uiltrasporti Toscana, UIL Fpl Area Vasta Toscana Centro, CGIL Fp and CGIL Filcams) and employees of the REAR cooperative and the Mus.e association, which guarantee the services of the Florentine museums, have protested against Mayor Dario Nardella ’s decision to keep the institutes open on December 25 and January 1. Three, basically, were the reasons that prompted the workers to protest: first of all, the fact that the Culture Directorate of the City of Florence reportedly communicated its intentions with little notice, with vacation plans already made and approved, and from what transpires without additional bonuses for service on holidays; the fact that two museums, the Palazzo Vecchio Museum and the Museo Novecento, are always open on New Year’s Eve with 2-7 p.m. hours while they remain closed on December 25; and the fact that on Christmas Day the city’s state museums remain closed.

About 250 Mus.e and Rear employees are affected by the measure: these are workers who take care of museum ticket offices, information points, surveillance, checkrooms, and bookshops. And now they have taken action, writing a letter to Mayor Nardella, Deputy Mayor and Councillor for Culture, Alessia Bettini, as well as the entire city council and council, and announcing the possibility of calling assemblies or even strikes. “December 25 had remained the only annual closing day for the Civic Museums,” the workers write, recalling that Florentine museums open 364 days a year. “Many of us earn less than 1,000 euros a month. Many of us are part-time workers, some by choice, others because this is offered to us. Many of us have precarious contracts. Some supervisors work on call. Almost all of us work normally on Sundays. We had been approved for a vacation plan on November 29, and for Christmas no one asked for vacation because we knew it was the one day of the year when no one would be working. The lucky ones had managed to take 2-3 days off so they could go away for a few days, many to visit their family, often in another region, in some cases abroad. Dear mayor, that is why we urge you to consider one of the best things a man can do: retrace your steps, change your mind and admit you were wrong. If not, we will do our work on Christmas Day with passion and competence, as we have always done in recent years, without complaining, at mid-August with 40 degrees, at Easter with the family at home, on December 31, on January 1.”

The decision, however, has already been made, and Nardella, in thanking the “workers of Palazzo Vecchio, Mus.e and Rear, who with a sense of responsibility allow the administration to give a nice gift to Florentines and tourists this holiday season, giving an extra opportunity to visit these splendid museums,” let it be known that it will open now a haggling over compensation, but ill-feeling remains high over the fact that the availability on a voluntary basis, according to the unions, was asked only of City employees and not those of Rear and Mus.e. “The communication from the Culture Directorate to the companies that manage the staff of the Museum of Palazzo Vecchio does not report any voluntariness,” UIL Toscana points out. “The employees of the REAR cooperative under contract and the Mus.e association under arrangement have not been asked to work on a voluntary basis because they, following the agreements that the companies have made with the municipality of Florence, are obliged to guarantee the service and open the Museum upon the unbreakable decision of the Mayor and the Council. Only and only the employees of the municipality have been asked to be available on a voluntary basis. The employees of the association and the cooperative were called to work compulsorily being denied in advance any request for leave.”

Uiltrasporti recalls when, a few months ago, the City of Florence had obtained Pellizza da Volpedo’s Fourth State on loan and rebukes the administration for the rhetoric of the occasion: “Until recently, the Fourth State was on display at Palazzo Vecchio (sometimes ’unavailable’ to visitors due to the cuts in working hours suffered, at the behest of the City, by Rear employees... other than investment in culture!). In recent days the City of Florence, with its decision, has reminded us that there is also a V State, those of the contract workers, people about whom publicly many and especially the institutions express words of closeness, solidarity, etc., which unfortunately remain only words!”

In any case, for the first time in history, Palazzo Vecchio will also open at Christmas: there will be an afternoon opening from 2 p.m., while on New Year’s Eve the opening has been extended, with opening starting at 11 a.m.

Florence, city council-museum workers tug-of-war over Christmas opening
Florence, city council-museum workers tug-of-war over Christmas opening

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