Italy, Unions Sign Holy Year Truce

Associated Press, Monday 28 February 2000, 5:27 PM ET

ROME (AP)—Government and union leaders signed a limited pact Monday aimed at heading off strikes this year, while air traffic controllers stopped work in Italy's latest transport-paralyzing labor protest.

The pact stops short of an outright moratorium on strikes for the Roman Catholic Church's 2000 Holy Year, but is meant to make them less troublesome for the year's projected 30 million pilgrims and tourists.

“Naturally, it doesn’t pretend to be a miracle formula for avoiding strikes and reducing conflicts. But it's a step in the right direction,” said Rome Mayor Francesco Rutelli.

Rutelli planned to follow the national accord with a local one governing strikes and demonstrations.

The main intent of the pact is to give a mediating committee ample notice of strikes and conflicts that could lead to strikes, with the aim of heading off walkouts if possible.

Unions said strikes already scheduled wouldn’t be affected by the pact.

On Monday, air traffic controllers stopped work at all of Italy's major airports from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., causing widespread flight cancellations and delays.

On Friday, buses, trams and subways will grind to a halt for 24 hours unless unions and Transport Minister Pierluigi Bersani can agree on union demands for higher wages and shorter hours.

On March 8, unions representing rail workers also plan a 24-hour strike.