Visiting tourists and tour guides working in and around the Colosseum have expressed their anger as the FLP labour union announces its third strike in just over a week.
The 2000-year-old site, historically used to stage gladiatorial contests and public spectacles during the Roman Empire, was closed for four hours last Thursday and again on Sunday for strike action over pay and staff shortages. Tourists were made to queue for hours in the scorching heat until the monument reopened.
“I express my solidarity with those protesting but I don’t understand why they have to take it out on us,” Italian daily La Stampa quoted Nancy Price, an American tourist queuing outside the monument as saying.
“It’s unjustifiable. On Thursday I have a group arriving from Australia and there’s the risk that they will be left outside with a ticket in their hand,” tour guide Marinella Cementi told the paper.
The closures could also have a negative impact on Rome’s hotel industry, which caters for the large influx of tourists – around five million – who visit the monument every year.
Italian daily La Gazetta del Sud quoted Bernabò Bocca, president of the Italian hoteliers’ association Federalberghi, as saying: “In a country like Italy, tourism activities should be considered essential public services.”
“While we respect workers’ rights, those of tourists and citizens are no less important,” he added, warning of “grave economic repercussions” if the Minister of Culture Massimo Bray does not intervene.
Reacting to the strikes, Antonio Pasqua Recchia, Secretary General to the Ministry of Culture, told La Stampa: “The payment of extra salary has started but there is no margin for hiring [new staff] because of the economic situation.”
He added that the strike “has had a dramatic negative impact on the country’s image”.