The government has prepared a Plan B to enforce in the event that ongoing protest action by municipal garbage collectors continues with the possible use of a judicial order to force employees back to work, Kathimerini understands.
“The government will not allow public health to be put at risk,” government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos told reporters. He did not elaborate but another government source made it clear that authorities had at their disposal two tools that they can use if unionists dig in their heels: the judiciary and the army.
According to sources, the government is considering using a judicial order to oblige workers to return to their jobs on the grounds of their strike posing a risk to public health. There is no law permitting the mobilization of sanitation workers that would allow the government to force them back to work in the manner that previous administrations have done with metro employees and seamen.
Authorities had hoped that an improved offer to contract workers by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Tuesday would break the deadlock. But unionists said they would continue with plans to hold a 24-hour strike on Thursday. For the past 12 days, protesters having been holding back-to-back walkouts and blocking depots in a bid to stop garbage collection.
Unionists are to reconvene later on Thursday to decide on their course of action. Sources indicated on Wednesday that the executive body of the POE-OTA municipal workers’ union will probably stop its action following the concessions by the government.
The City of Athens, which has more than 2,000 sanitation workers on short-term contracts, estimates the trash on the streets of the capital will be gone by the weekend. The situation in Piraeus is worse as a cleanup there has yet to begin.
In parts of Piraeus and Thessaloniki, local authorities sent out staff to spray the mounds of trash with disinfectant on Wednesday.
Thessaloniki Mayor Yiannis Boutaris had been on the verge of signing a contract with a private firm to collect the tons of trash that have gathered on the streets of the northern port city. He halted the planned initiative after protesting contract workers agreed to clean up streets by Sunday.