Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Back for another year in austerity Greece

We flew out to Athens on Saturday May 12th and immediately managed to get ripped off. Our bags were heavy and it was late so we were seduced by the sign saying flat fare 35 euros for a taxi to Athens. We were already a bit suspicious when he turned onto the motorway that goes round to the north of Athens, then through the traffic in the centre before getting lost on the way to Paleo Faliron, where our friend Lena lives. In the end it took at least as long as the bus and cost us 50 euros, because of course by taking the long way round he had gone further than to the centre of Athens!
We had a very pleasant weekend with Lena, with Nikos and Lena coming to lunch on Sunday, and flew out to Leros on Monday afternoon. We had arranged to pick up a car at the airport and drove the 100 metres to the yard to find the men still working on our electric winches. The boat seemed in good shape, but it had obviously been a very wet winter as all our salt pots were completely solid and we started finding things that had suffered from corrosion, including one of our two laptops – it started once, but the keyboard would not work, then died completely. The gas solenoid would not work, so we had to bypass it to have any gas for cooking.
The workers had done a great job on the winches, but had not yet refitted the ceilings or wired the engine instrument panel. They came and put the ceilings in on Wednesday, then the electrician came to work on the panel, but then disappeared. Eventually we got him back on Saturday, but there were still faults. He decided to take away the alternator to clean it (it was very rusty on the outside, having been sprayed with salt water), promising to come back on Monday. It is now Tuesday evening – we spoke to him briefly this morning and he indicated that the alternator was knackered, but until we get it back or a new one we are stuck. Various other things are not working, mostly the result of winter damp, which is trying our patience as we try to fix them.
Meanwhile there are great dramas in the yard. It seems that as a result of an inspection by the health authorities (probably instigated by the competitors) it is now forbidden to sleep on boats in the yard, and it is forbidden to paint your own boat (a rumour that people would not be able to work on their own boats at all has been denied). Though this has not yet been put into effect, it will be part of the new contracts, which will include the labour cost of antifouling and half the cost of a hotel and car hire for ten days. To cover the cost of this the fees have been increased substantially. At the same time a contract no longer entitles you to use the marina, which means that an annual contract is pretty pointless.  Moreover the yard has substantially cut the wages of its employees and increased their hours, with the promise of further cuts to come. The management pleads that this is all due to events outside their control – excessive demand for the marina, requirements of the health authorities, financial stringency. At best it is all a result of bad management, at worst it is a case of management trying to take advantage of the crisis at both ends, cutting costs by cutting wages and intensifying labour and raising revenue by jacking up fees.
The result of this has been a mass exodus of boats from this yard to the other yard and marina in Lakki, which is now substantially cheaper, without restrictions, but, apparently, with even worse treatment of its workers. Having managed to get our deposit back from the yard here, we have also joined the exodus, after I had a fruitless discussion with the smooth, nay slimy, young director of the company – he finally conceded that they were at fault in altering the terms of our contracts without notice, got very angry when I suggested that if I brought in lawyers I would win, but would not make any concessions. I can well imagine him persuading his employees that a pay cut or redundancy is in their best interests, helping their career development. Another bastard boss.
So we are stuck in the yard, waiting for the electrician to come back before we can launch. It is nice enough here – very quiet, variable but pleasant weather and good company. And we have a car so we can get out and about (the ground is a bit rough for much walking and my bike is still in pieces as I combat the rust).
No pictures yet!
Love to all our family and friends – we miss you all.