Vatican Museums’ staff file legal complaint for better terms

Vatican Museums

In a highly unusual move, forty-nine employees of the Vatican Museums have launched a legal challenge against the Vatican administration.

The move poses a direct challenge to Pope Francis’ governance.

The employees are demanding improved seniority, leave and overtime benefits.

The class-action complaint also highlights health and security concerns due to cost-cutting measures at the museums.

These include overcrowding and reduced security staff – which potentially compromise safety.

The complaint, penned by veteran Vatican attorney Laura Sgrò, references Catholic social teaching and Pope Francis’ own appeals for workers’ rights.

“They have tried so many times through individual petitions to resolve this situation” she said.

“So this move is quite extreme. After many years of discussion, this is the first class action. We have 49 people now, but I think this number will increase over the next few days.”

Sgrò said staff had allegedly faced disciplinary action if off sick and found not to be at home during visits from a Vatican doctor.

The visit must occur within 24 hours of the sick leave commencing.

“This is crazy” she said. “They risk disciplinary action even if they go out for an hour to see their own doctor.”

Sgrò also claims that workers who had to stay home during the Covid-19 pandemic, when the Vatican Museums were forced to close, were now being asked to hand back salaries paid during that period.

Absolute monarchy

The complaint is the latest legal challenge to underscore how the Vatican’s laws, regulations and practices are often incompatible with Italian and European norms.

Recently, civil and criminal cases have exposed how Vatican employees, especially lay Italian citizens, have little or no legal recourse beyond the peculiar justice system of the city-state. The Pope wields supreme executive, legislative and judicial power in this absolute monarchy.

Cardinal Fernando Vérgez Alzaga, head of the Vatican City State administration, has 30 days to respond to the complaint.

If he does not, the case could be negotiated with the Vatican’s labour office – though the office can refuse to hear it.

In recent legal challenges, there have been indications that complaints may be escalated to the European Court of Human Rights. This is despite the Holy See not being a member.

Vatican spokespersons and Cardinal Alzaga have not responded to requests for comment.


AP News

The Guardian


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