The Greek government has urged striking garbage collectors to return to work after a 10-day protest has left huge piles of trash around Athens. Striking workers scuffled with riot police in central Athens outside the stuttered entrance of a ministry building, where a union delegation was expected to present its demands.
Temperatures are forecast to reach 42C (107F) in Athens by the end of the week, prompting a public health agency to issue a warning over the continuing strike. “The continued accumulation of garbage… combined with high temperatures poses a risk to public health,” the state-run Centre for Disease Control and Prevention said.
Despite the strike, municipal crews agreed to collect some garbage in busy tourist areas, outside hospitals and at intersections where tumbling piles of trash were slowing traffic. Later on Monday, the government is due to submit draft legislation to parliament to renew job contracts for thousands of municipal garbage works.
Striking unions are demanding that government fulfil commitments to provide permanent jobs for long-term contract workers – an action that could breach strict budget obligations set out under the Greece’s international bailout agreements.
Greece has been repeatedly criticised by the European Union for its heavy reliance on open landfills and low rates of recycling, and has been fined on many occasions for failing to close illegal dump sites.