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Holy See To Be Hit By Its First Strike, Says Union Leader

February 21, 1985

VATICAN CITY (AP) _ The Vatican’s lay employees plan to stage their first strike ever against the Holy See next week, the union president said Thursday.

Mariano Cerullo, head of the Association of Lay Vatican Employees, said the workers will begin a 24-hour job action at 7 a.m. Tuesday that is expected to shut down Vatican museums, the post office, the main library, the daily newspaper L’Osservatore Romano and Vatican Radio.

Security and emergency services will not be affected.

Cerullo said the union’s executive council called the strike Tuesday night after the Vatican failed to agree to a union proposal dating from October to standarize pay scales and job classifications.

The tiny, independent city-state has more than 3,000 lay and religious employees. Nearly 1,700 of the 1,800 lay employees belong to the union and will take part in the strike, he said.

The union has never staged a full-scale strike since it was formed in 1979 with Pope John Paul II’s approval. But it has come close several times.

The Vatican has made no public statement on the strike threat. A spokesman, Monsignor Giulio Nicolini, said he didn’t know what would happen if the walkout takes place.

Cerullo, a technician at Vatican Radio, said in an interview that the strike call was prompted by a letter from Vatican officials saying they needed more time to consider the union’s complicated proposal.

He said the real issue isn’t monetary but administrative.

″There are four administrations, each with its own rules and pay scale, which creates a pay and regulation jungle,″ said Cerullo,

He said salaries and work rules differ widely for people doing the same type of work but under a different administration.

Cerullo said a lay employee’s current monthly base salary ranges from $490 to $750. The employees, mostly Italians, also get family allowances and can shop at special Vatican stores where prices are cheaper than on Italian soil.

Under proposals advanced by the union last October, there would be 12 job classifications and 10 clearly defined pay steps for all Vatican lay workers.

Cerullo said that under the proposals some of the lowest paid workers would get pay raises of up to 9 percent, and a clause would cover merit increases for all employees.

He said the Vatican letter requesting more time was ″without any content.″

Cerullo said union members would gather Tuesday inside the Vatican’s Belvedere Courtyard for a meeting, while union representatives will try to meet Vatican Secretary of State Agostino Casaroli.

In May 1982 union members staged a silent protest near the L’Osservatore Romano office. The next month a strike was averted at the last minute when John Paul said he would personally study the employees’ complaints.

Last year, the Vatican eliminated one dispute by giving the workers pay raises of from 8 percent to 20 percent. The Holy See also reduced the workweek from 42 hours to 36 hours over six days.

But the Vatican has resisted other increases. It says the Holy See is running more than $30 million in the red annually and cannot afford them.

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