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Vatican Museums Workers Launch Labor Dispute

Employees Cite Unfair Conditions, Could Sue Pope Francis' Administration

VATICAN CITY – Forty-nine employees of the Vatican Museums have launched an unprecedented labor dispute, alleging unfair and poor working conditions.

The workers, mostly museum attendants, have sent a petition to the Vatican’s “Governatorato,” the body that administers the Vatican City State. They are represented by lawyer Laura Sgrò, who says the petition laments rules that cause “labor conditions undermining each worker’s dignity and health.”

The workers allege that they are forced to work extra hours for lower pay and that they have insufficient health and safety provisions.

“Workers have decided this action only after all their demands and requests over years were left unanswered,” Sgrò said.

Unions are not allowed in Vatican City.

A spokesman for the Vatican Museums declined to comment.

The news was initially reported on Sunday by the Il Corriere della Sera daily.

The 49 workers, out of a total of around 700 people employed at the Vatican Museums, are all Italian citizens and have been employed at the Vatican for many years.

The Vatican Museums are one of the most visited museums in the world, along with Paris’ Louvre and London’s British Museum. They have a priceless art collection and include the renowned Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel.

The petition represents the first formal step in a mandatory conciliation process under Vatican law. If the conciliation procedure fails, the case can then be brought to a Vatican Court.

Sgrò added that, due to the absence of furlough schemes in Vatican labor legislation, workers who had been left inactive during the COVID-19 pandemic because of the Vatican Museums’ closure are now being asked to hand back salaries paid during that period.

“With this action we want to be constructive, we hope this can prove the right occasion for a general rethinking of the Vatican labor rules,” Sgrò said.