We who work at Christmas, that's who we are. The letter from Florentine museum workers

In the end, the Florentine Civic Museums opened on Christmas Day: however, the workers were employed on short notice, with vacations already planned and without a volunteer clause. And they wrote an open letter to say who they are and how committed they are.

In the end, the Florentine Civic Museums were regularly opened on Christmas Day, after a brief tug-of-war between Mayor Dario Nardella and museum workers, particularly with outsourced workers from the REAR cooperative and the Mus.e association who provide basic services. The workers protested mainly because of the short notice with which the City of Florence’s culture directorate communicated its intentions, with vacation plans already approved, the fact that all of the city’s state museums are closed on December 25, and because two important civic museums, the Palazzo Vecchio Museum and the Museum of the Twentieth Century, are still open on New Year’s Eve, albeit with reduced hours (from 2 to 7 p.m.). So despite the fact that very few museums in European cities are open for Christmas, in the end museum workers did their duty to open municipal institutions (no attendance figures are available at the moment). However, on December 23, they wanted to take a stand by sending an open letter to the mayor, which we quote in full.

Dear Mr. Mayor,

we return to write to you after the events of the last few days, which have seen us opposed, engaged in legitimately defending different positions. The Museum of Palazzo Vecchio will, therefore, be open at Christmas: we remain of the opinion that this is not an ethically acceptable choice; the “agreements” we read about in the newspapers in recent days have attempted to patch up timing that, as you yourself have acknowledged, has not been appropriate, and in the case of the surveillance services our Trade Unions have not even had the opportunity to take part in negotiations with the Company.

In spite of the idea that has reached public opinion, which is distorted, of operators who are little inclined to duty and insensitive to the “hunger for Culture” of citizens and tourists, the Florentine Civic Museums during the holidays will be, as every year, always open, as they are throughout the year: as we have repeatedly reminded these days, museums such as Palazzo Vecchio or Santa Maria Novella do not even have a weekly closing day.

Christmas had remained a symbol, if we want also a sign of respect towards all workers; so it will not be, it has been decided. In spite of everything we will be there, and even if obliged (voluntariness was not included in the “agreements”) we will serve with the responsibility and passion that distinguishes us throughout the year.

In a few days we will be facing precisely a new year in our Civic Museums; Florentines now know us (perhaps still not enough), visitors from all over the world find in us the face of the Museum, a sign, a help:

we are the ones who open our museums in the morning at 7:00 a.m., who are behind the counter every day giving information and selling tickets;

we are the ones who in the coming months will be manning and explaining the cold Cloisters of the Convent of Santa Maria Novella, with temperatures close to 0 and the only comfort in small heaters that we have obtained through exhausting union struggles, but without the intervention of the City and at the expense of our Company;

we are the ones who, trained to give first aid, assist the visitor in distress and who, having taken a tough exam for fire prevention, intervene in any emergencies; the ones who take care of our Museums, who report daily breakdowns and dry the water when the halls flood during storms;

we are the ones who even on Ferragosto accompany visitors for the whole day on the steep stairs of our wonderful city towers, and who guard the halls of the Palazzo Vecchio even standing for more than 9 hours in temperatures close to 40 degrees, because the fan is broken and the air conditioning, unlike museums and historical buildings all over the world, “cannot be arranged.”

we are the ones who have to keep smiling even when, increasingly, they have to literally explain in four languages to angry tourists that they will not be able to visit the desired Salone dei Cinquecento “because an institutional event is going on,” as has been the case in recent days, even when we know that tables are being set for the dinner of some Company or Association.

We are pleased to read in CronacheDi that you say you are interested in learning more about our labor contracts, because all the things we have just listed, in the case of reception and surveillance services, the luckiest among us do them for a little more than 7 euros per hour, others even for less, with on-call or part-time contracts, often imposed, that rarely exceed 30 hours per week. We are disappointed, however, to hear that your Administration has no role in this: in the calls for tenders for these services, it is the City of Florence that allocates the necessary budget and sets the starting figure, calculated on the hourly cost of the National Collective Bargaining Agreement of Cleaning-Multi-Service Companies, one of the cheapest; in particular in the last call for tenders, the one for 2020, this Agreement was explicitly indicated, also recommending the levels to be applied (2 and 3, i.e., the lowest).

If one thing we certainly have in common is our interest in the preservation and better enhancement of our Civic Museums, which are going through complicated periods, despite the slogans and media campaigns; we hope that this will be an opportunity to create a dialogue that will lead this Administration to want to get to know us more and to intervene in our realities, made up of workers who in many cases have been serving in our Museums for more than fifteen years.

We are ready and willing to make our contribution, and if past the holidays his commitment is forgotten along with the pages of the newspapers, we will also be ready to remind him.

It would be opportune and significant for the City of Florence itself, a world symbol city of art and culture, to lead the way in the creation of a new system of heritage enhancement that can be based on the recognition of different cultural professions rather than on the exclusive and gratuitous goodwill of workers willing to do anything to maintain a barely decent salary or for the mere love of the places they are called upon to preserve.

Hoping to receive an invitation from your office to our Representations as soon as possible, we wish you and your co-workers

Merry Family Christmas and a happy (and fruitful) New Year.

The RR.SS. of the contracted and agreed workers of the Florentine Civic Museums.

We who work at Christmas, that's who we are. The letter from Florentine museum workers
We who work at Christmas, that's who we are. The letter from Florentine museum workers

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