ROME (Reuters) - Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi slammed trade unions on Friday after a temporary closure of Rome's Colosseum left hundreds of tourists stranded outside, and presented emergency legislation to prevent similar episodes.
Unionized workers at the Roman amphitheatre held a 2-1/2 meeting in the morning, keeping the gates locked until they had finished their discussions.
They said the stoppage was within their rights, but confusion reigned outside the Colosseum, with signs in English telling tourists that the site would not re-open until 11 p.m., rather than 11 a.m.
"We will not allow anti-Italy unionists to take culture hostage," an angry Renzi wrote on Twitter, also publishing a photo of the crowds of tourists milling around outside the Colosseum.
The workers are locked in a dispute with the Culture Ministry over issues including staff shortages and payment delays. The Colosseum and the ancient city of Pompeii temporarily closed in July while unions discussed these issues.
Following an evening meeting called to approve new economic targets, Renzi announced that the Cabinet had also approved an emergency decree to limit strike action for workers in museums and other cultural heritage sites.
The decree includes such sites in a list of essential public services such as health and schools where industrial action is restricted.
Culture Minister Dario Franceschini said workers in the culture sector would from now on have to get prior permission from a government authority for any stoppages, "just like workers in a hospital or a school or in public transport".
The CGIL, CISL FP and UILPA unions said in a joint statement that cultural heritage was already covered by legislation on essential services that deals with workers' rights and the needs of the public.
Despite standing on the centre-left of the political spectrum, Renzi has repeatedly clashed with unions during his 18 months in power.
Reporting by Isla Binnie and Gavin Jones; Editing by Kevin Liffey