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Local base employees such as Naples NEX worker Ciro Gramaglia plan to strike Friday, the day after Thanksgiving and traditionally the biggest shopping day of the year in the States.
Local base employees such as Naples NEX worker Ciro Gramaglia plan to strike Friday, the day after Thanksgiving and traditionally the biggest shopping day of the year in the States. (Lisa M. Novak/S&S)

NAPLES, Italy — Workers may be scarce at the Navy Exchange in Gricignano the day after Thanksgiving if a strike by local Italian employees goes as planned.

Workers plan to picket the front and back gate of the support site early Friday morning and continue for several hours, organizers said.

About 1,000 locals work on the support site and the Capodichino base, including 233 employed by the NEX.

The store still plans to open at 8 a.m., as scheduled, on Friday, said NEX manager Christina Giordano. In the States, the day is traditionally the biggest shopping day of the year.

One NEX worker who didn’t want to be identified said other employees who live off-base were asked to alter their Thanksgiving plans and remain on base Thursday night to ensure they would be at the store early Friday morning in case protesters blocked the base gates.

Mariarosaria Corvino, an NEX employee and a representative of Unione Italiana Lavoratori, one of two unions representing base workers, said that day was picked for a reason.

"We’re not like transporters or public transportation. When they strike, they’re gonna cause a problem," she said. "We have to pick a day that will make them pay attention, and hopefully somebody higher will realize what’s happening."

Local employees say many issues over the past few years have gone unresolved. A key issue is they don’t have access to base facilities, particularly the commissary and Navy Exchange, that allow for tax-free shopping.

"We’re striking mainly because there’s no relations between union and management. We meet, we talk, but we don’t come to agreement," Corvino said.

"We work here, but we don’t have the right to shop here. Italian NATO personnel can shop here, why can’t we?"

That particular issue is determined not by the Navy but by Italian law, say base officials.

"NATO personnel are in an international status and therefore exempt from the Italian laws that bar tax-free shopping," said Al Spinelli, director of the base Human Resources Office.

"This is an important issue for the workers but it is beyond our control," Spinelli said.

Base officials said they have met with union representatives on several occasions, but have come to no resolution. After a meeting Friday morning, union representatives from UIL said none of the issues, which also include part-time work status, travel allowances, sick leave and others, were resolved.

"A strike for us is a last resort," said Ciro Guida, a UIL representative who has worked for the NEX for 20 years. "In order for us strike it means that (relations) have really broken down."

Union representatives said they didn’t know how many strikers would show up Friday morning, but they were expecting "strong participation."

Base and union representatives will meet again this week, but officials believe the strike will take place.

"It’s always possible a strike can be averted, but I don’t hold out much hope that this one will," Spinelli said.

It is not known how the strike will affect base operations.

"Currently there is no change in plans for NSA Naples," said Capt. Robert Rabuse, commanding officer for the base. "We will be proactive in the event of a strike with our security personnel and in coordination with local law enforcement, to avoid any traffic or delays of access to the support site."

Another worker strike is planned Dec. 3, at the Capodichino base.

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