Standoff in trash protest persists

The impasse between the mayor of Athens and short-term contract workers continued on Wednesday, following a fruitless meeting between the two sides, and with the former accusing the latter of ?blackmail and intimidation.?

Representatives of municipal workers who have been staging a sit-in at City Hall and at the garbage truck depot since Monday met with Mayor Giorgos Kaminis on Wednesday and repeated their demand that they be hired on a permanent basis and that the municipal council scrap its plans to hire new contract workers.

The workers rejected Kaminis?s proposal that the municipality would withdraw its call for some 800 new contract workers if the protest came to an end. Kaminis appeared frustrated at the lingering deadlock.

?I accepted the request to put off the council meeting over the new hirings. I also took a step further by accepting [the demand for] a new meeting with employees? representatives in a bid to reach a deal that we could then propose to the government,? Kaminis said, criticizing unionist calls for further strike action.

?The Athens municipality cannot function under conditions of blackmail and intimidation,? Kaminis said. ?Given the fact that the main demand of the employees has been met, I fail to see why the unions have decided to extend their sit-in demonstration. I?m afraid it?s driven by political motives,? he said.

The mayor says that the law, which was introduced so that governments or local authorities could not make permanent hirings through the back door, does not allow him to hire the short-term workers whose contracts have expired.

He says he is in favor of seeing the law changed but argues that the city needs new hirings to ensure that Athens?s garbage collection continues.

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