To Rhodes, the Templar Castle is what is the Acropolis to Athens or the Palace of Knossos to Crete. Built in the early 14th century, it is one of the largest and best preserved medieval castles associated with the activity of the enigmatic Knights Templar.
Every summer, the impressive building attracts the interest of thousands of visitors on the island. Today, however, it was nearly closed, because the guards - employees of the Ministry of Culture - warned that they will not work, if a way for their overtime allowances to be paid is not found.
Businessmen employed in tourism were relieved when the threat was withdrawn at the last moment. However, it was not cancelled. Guards reserved their "right" to close the doors of the castle at the height of the tourist season. Just as their counterparts in Athens did a week ago with the Acropolis, which was closed due to high temperatures.
GRReporter contacted the President of the Union of Travel Agencies in Rhodes, Konstantinos Georgiadis. We learned from him that in this case the benefits regarding the hours after 3 p.m. or 4 p.m. are concerned, depending on what time the guards start work. The most incredible is that these are not paid by their employer, i.e. the state, but by the businessmen themselves.
The representative of the travel agents explained that the problem is concentrated in the absence of a legal document that regulates the payment of allowances in a lawful manner.
"About six months ago, the Ministry of Culture took steps in order for the money to be given to the Fund for archaeological income and for the guards to receive it legally. The solution had to be signed by the Ministers of Culture and Finance. But due to delays in the administrative work, caused by two successive electoral contests and the political instability, the decision remained unsigned. Then the guards started threatening that they would not work overtime, i.e. after 3 p.m., when they finish work".
Facing the risk of the thousands of tourists from cruise ships, for which Rhodes is a one-day destination, not having a reason to visit the island and the companies excluding the isle from their itinerary, local travel agents took measures.
"We sent requests to the ministries. Initially, we received a negative response, but after we published a protest note, the procedures were triggered and by the end of the week we are expecting all signatures to be affixed, so that the archaeological sites stay open in the hours beyond the guards' working hours as well. "
What is meant by "overtime? For example, the fact that on Monday, the Templar Castle is closed, because it is the guards' day off. "This was valid for all sites until a week ago, when a ministerial order was issued, requiring at least the most visited ones to be open during the morning hours on Monday."
According to Konstantinos Georgiadis, this measure is temporary and will be in force until the moment when temporary employees are hired. Then the archaeological sites will be open from 08:00 am to 7:00 p.m. every day. The delay in this case is also because of the elections, which have blocked the procedure. "In previous years, all ended as early as May - June."
The logical question of why is it necessary for the private business to pay overtime allowances to civil servants receives an illogical answer: "Because, quite simply, the ministry has no money to pay them."
The strange thing in the case is that this is not a result of the crisis, but a long standing practice. In fact, travel agents have always paid the guards overtime in order to extend their working day by 1-2 hours to 5:00 p.m. at the latest. The money for an overtime hour is 30 euro per employee. Neither the travel agents, nor the cruise companies have something against paying, as long as they are sure that their customers will be able to visit the tourist sites of Rhodes.
The good news is that despite the problems, the tourist flow to Rhodes is very good. "After last year, which was very good with an increase of about 22 per cent, this year we are expecting a slight decrease, which can not be determined now, but will be limited to just a one-digit percentage. After the elections, it became clear that July, August and September will be successful", expressed confidently the representative of Travel Agencies in Rhodes.