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Court to hear health and safety case against Leventis Gallery

The injured woman was an employee of the gallery

 

The Nicosia district court will hear in January 2018 a case brought by the Labour Inspection Department against the Leventis Gallery over irregularities in the handling of an accident that caused one of its employees to lose the use of her left arm.

The case relates to an incident from March 2015, when a wooden ceiling panel collapsed on Themis Anthopoulou, a gallery employee, causing paralysis of her left arm and a syndrome called reflex sympathetic dystrophy, which causes her constant pain that requires strong medication, including opioids.

Despite Anthopoulou’s continuous pestering of government agencies to look into her case, investigations seemed to get nowhere, until it was established that the gallery had only notified the department of the accident eight days after the fact, and after the panel in question had been replaced.

On Monday, the gallery denied charges of informing the department of the incident late, tampering with the accident site and failing to take due health and safety precautions.

According to Anthopoulou, now 38, the gallery claimed in court that the accident was not labour-related because it took place at 5pm, half an hour after she had officially finished work, and said she had remained in her office to tend to personal affairs.

This prompted a long Facebook post by Anthopoulou, in which she voiced disappointment and frustration at the perceived injustice.

“On the Monday [of the accident] I was going to get off work late because we were supposed to prepare the exhibitions hall for a lunch that would be hosted by the Leventis Foundation commissioner Fotini Papadopoulou,” Anthopoulou wrote.

“The preparations were supposed to start after 5pm, when the museum closed for the public. I had even arranged with Mrs Fotini to let her know once the hall was ready so that she could inspect it. Unfortunately, the panel ‘got to me’ first.”

The former employee has been complaining that the gallery informed her in a letter that it would no longer be paying her any salary as of earlier this year, and is also preventing her from receiving any disability benefits from the government by denying there had been a labour accident.

The gallery had covered Anthopoulou’s medical bills for almost two years, including a surgery in a hospital in Vienna, but has decided to cease payments.

Meanwhile, although she returned to work after the accident, practical difficulties in executing her duties meant special accommodations were required, which Anthopoulou maintains she was denied.

In her Facebook post, Anthopoulou claimed “Mrs Fotini” – wife of the late President Tassos Papadopoulos and mother of Diko leader and presidential candidate Nicolas Papadopoulos – “knows the truth well”.

“Everyone knows two other panels had collapsed before I was injured,” she said.

“They failed to protect me; this is the basic truth they are avoiding. Two panels fell before I was injured, and another after my accident. I was informed that very recently a piece of marble fell off the front of the building and could have crushed any random passer-by on the ground. Thankfully, so far I am the only victim.”

Gallery director Loukia Loizou Hadjigavriel said the Leventis gallery has done, and continues to do, “everything possible”.

“The gallery has paid for all medical expenses since the accident,” she said.

“It has paid for the treatments and doctors she has selected. And it does this for all its employees, she is not the exception.”

According to Hadjigavriel, Anthopoulou is on sick-leave until year-end, and the reason her salary payments were discontinued was because her contract stipulated payment to continue for up to six months of medical leave.

“Instead, Mrs Anthopoulou was paid her salary for two years before it was discontinued,” Hadjigavriel said.

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