Riot police used tear gas to break up hundreds of demonstrators barricading Greece’s most famous site, the Acropolis, for the second straight day on Thursday in an ongoing dispute with the government over back wages and worker layoffs.
Some 200 Culture Ministry employees launched the strike on Wednesday, blocking access to the 2,500-year-old site, to demand permanent status and back pay for hundreds of employees with short-term contracts which in many cases have not been paid for 22 months.
On Thursday the demonstrators, mainly contract workers, had barricaded themselves inside the entrance gates, refusing to allow any tourists into the ancient site unless their demands were met.
Riot police had surrounded the entrance of the Acropolis following a court order and eventually dispersed the protesters using tear gas. At least five people were reported arrested.
Hundreds of tourists stood at the sites entrance taking pictures during the standoff between police and demonstrators. Tourists were eventually allowed access into the Acropolis after police broke up the demonstration and regained access to its entrance.
Union officials said the blockade could be repeated in the next few weeks unless the government strengthened its commitment to resolve the pay dispute.
The Acropolis was shut earlier this summer when members of the country’s communist trade union used the site to stage a protest against the government’s austerity measures.
Greece’s Socialist government has passed a series of tough austerity measures, which include salary and pension cuts, in order to meet terms set out in an emergency bailout worth €110 billion (USD150 billion dollars) by the European Union and International Monetary Fund (IMF).