Attempt to end Acropolis row

An ongoing dispute between Culture Ministry contract workers and the government, which has led to the Acropolis being shut five times in the last two weeks, could be on the way to being solved but at a cost of more than 9 million euros. The government tabled an amendment in Parliament yesterday that seeks to address at least in part the grievances of the ministry employees who work at the Acropolis and other ancient sites as well as museums. The contract workers had staged their protest because dozens of them had not been paid over the last few months due to a change in the way that public finances are managed. Their other main grievance is that they have only been hired on two-year contracts and now that these have come to an end, they face being left jobless. The public servants are asking for permanent jobs. The amendment tabled in Parliament yesterday stops short of providing the protesters with jobs for life but it states that anyone who had completed two full years of employment by November 1, 2008, would be given a contract for another year with the option of extending it another 12 months. However, the legislation clearly states that there is no guarantee that the Culture Ministry will offer its employees a permanent deal at the end of that period. The General Accounting Office has estimated that an extension of the contracts of some 500 workers would cost the state just over 9.2 million euros. Culture Minister Antonis Samaras said that the outlay was «honest, just and bold, especially during the difficult economic situation in which the country finds itself.» The contract workers did not respond to the amendment and it was unclear whether the offer will be enough to convince them to stop the strikes, especially as it does not provide them with any long-term job security.

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