Legal or not, trash strike could go on

On the fifth day of a strike that has seen 25,000 tons of garbage pile up in city streets, the Interior Ministry yesterday took legal action, seeking to have a nationwide garbage collectors’ strike declared illegal. An Athens court is to hear the case today. But the federation of municipal workers (POE-OTA) is prepared to extend the strike for a further 48 hours, even if the action is declared illegal, and without the backing of the civil servants’ union (ADEDY), which has so far failed to respond to the federation’s appeal for support. Athens Mayor Dora Bakoyianni said yesterday there was «no other solution than to have recourse to justice.» Workers are seeking higher pay and want to prevent the possibility of private companies being given the right to collect garbage. An attempt by the Central Union of Municipalities to call for a 10-day suspension of strike action, so that a joint proposal could be worked out to present to the government, also appears to have been unsuccessful, because, although POE-OTA unionists will be discussing the proposal today, they appear to have already decided it would not further their goals. Interior Minister Costas Skandalidis has ruled out a civil mobilization of garbage collectors. This would force them to return to work or face prosecution. Workers from the Athens municipality and prefecture were out in the streets yesterday spraying pesticide and disinfectant on the mountains of garbage that are attracting rodents and flies. Panayiotis Papadopoulos, head of the Athens prefecture’s health department, told Kathimerini that the unseasonably hot weather exacerbated the risks to health, as it favored the reproduction of disease-carrying insects such as flies. Papadopoulos appealed to people to keep their bags of garbage on their balconies. In the northern port of Thessaloniki, the head of the public prosecutor’s office, Panayiotis Ioannidis, called for an urgent preliminary investigation into the issue after receiving a report from the prefecture of Thessaloniki pointing out the health risks from the presence of so much refuse in residential areas.