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Why the Acropolis was Closed for Tourists?

14 July 2010 / 17:07:22  GRReporter
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In mid-summer, the symbol of ancient Greece and a major tourist attraction in Athens the Acropolis was closed to visitors for half a day. As a result, over 2500 tourists were waiting in the summer heat the ancient monuments to open their doors. The reason was a four-hour cessation of work of the permanent guardians of ancient sites at the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. The strike was a sign of commitment to their colleagues on temporary contracts, many of whom have not received salaries for over a year. “We avoid taking such extreme measures as the closure of the Acropolis, especially in this difficult period for the country, but the knife has reached the bone,” explained to GRReporter the President of the Hellenic Federation of archaeological sites guards at the Ministry of Culture Yannis Mafrikopoulos.

Payment of wages of most workers have been delayed for two to twenty months (in some cases), says Yannis Mafrikopoulos. In other cases, additional personnel is employed due to shortage of regular staff for which sources of payment are not provided or specified.  “The extreme closing of any other archaeological site would not have the same effect as the closing of the Acropolis. This was the only chance our voice to be heared,” says Yannis. The other problem besides non-payment of wages is that most of the dismissed employees have not received the redundancy payments for more than a year.

“The Ministry of Culture and Tourism is the realm of chaos for a long time. This is due to the lack of knowledge and managerial experience of all governors who have passed through it in the last decade,” says the unionist. He said that after the new government of George Papandreou have assumed power the organizations of museum employees requested a series of meetings to acquaint the new government with the problems of the employees. None of the requests has been approved by the Minister of Tourism and Culture Pavlos Gerulanos, always with the excuse that the Minister has other priorities. The rambling appointments after various laws that have been passed and canceled over the years have created holes in the system and most of those employed in the Ministry fall into disgrace. However, the needs of support staff to guard and maintain the archaeological wealth of the country remains. This creates three major categories of workers - permanent guards at the ministry, guards with a permanent labour contract and fixed-term contract employees.
The fixed term contracts employees suffer most in this case as they have many different subcategories. The workers in terms of the Stage program are paid the lowest. They work five days a week but are not entitled to pension and health insurance and get the lowest salaries. Others employed for 18 or 24 months were promised regular appointment according to the operating legal system, but the promise was not kept. Finally, the regular staff is not sufficient to cover the needs of guarding of all archaeological sites and the employees on fixed-term contracts are not regularly paid. Permanent and temporary guardians of archaeological sites in Greece are working side by side, Yannis Mafrikopoulos stresses. The main request of all parties involved remains the development of a policy of unified methods of appointment and payment in this sector.  

The problem with ancient sites guarding is only one of the issues that ministers and managers decide to postpone for years, meeting the needs of ministry only in the short term, says Mafrikopoulos. He has 27 years experience in the guarding of the historical heritage of Greece and shares the opinion of many other people that the lack of a unified national program for guarding and maintenance of ancient sites in the country has led to paradoxes, for example the government does not know who works in the public sector, where they receive money from and what their rights are.

Tags: AkropolisStriceAticca
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