NEWS

Acropolis shut in dispute over unpaid wages

The Acropolis was again at the center of a dispute between unionists and the government yesterday, as unpaid Culture Ministry workers kept the site closed for four hours, turning away hundreds of tourists who had been hoping to make their way up the ancient citadel. The site had been due to open at 8 a.m. but the public was not actually admitted until noon, as Culture Ministry employees were protesting the government’s failure to pay some of their colleagues. The president of the workers’ association, Yiannis Tsakopiakos, said that the aim of the protest was to draw attention to the fact that some 500 employees on short-term contracts had not been paid for 21 months. Ministry sources responded by saying that everything possible was being done to ensure that the workers would get their money as soon as possible. The Acropolis was shut down earlier this summer when members of the Communist Party-affiliated union PAME used the site to stage a protest against the government’s economic reforms. Striking Culture Ministry workers also prevented visitors from accessing the ancient monument several times last summer during protests over outstanding wages. Unionists have been repeatedly criticized for using the Acropolis as a bargaining chip in their disputes with the government, amid fears that images of tourists being turned away from Greece’s most famous ancient site will only further harm tourism in a year when arrivals have already dropped. Yesterday’s protest came ahead of a four-hour stoppage tomorrow by air-traffic controllers, leading to more than 40 flights being canceled or rescheduled. There was no official comment from the government yesterday but Deputy Tourism Minister Giorgos Nikitiadis suggested that Greece’s tourism industry might benefit from last-minute bookings. However, the Acropolis protest has put the Culture Ministry in the spotlight as it planned to open 20 new or renovated museums this year, prompting many to ask what the point to this policy is when there is not enough staff to look after the museums and sites already in existence. Kathimerini, for instance, has learned that the archaeological museum on Delos does not open before noon because there is only one guard, who is also responsible for issuing boat tickets and who has been waiting for a transfer for the last two years due to poor health.