Trash cleanup begins

Riot police and prosecutors yesterday accompanied convoys of garbage trucks into the dumps at Ano Liosia near Athens and Tagarades at Thessaloniki, breaking through cordons of striking municipal workers in an effort to end a weeklong strike that left tens of thousands of garbage rotting in streets across Greece. Municipal workers, including garbage collectors, were to meet this morning to decide what further action they will take. They called a 24-hour strike for Friday after a court ruled late on Thursday that their walkout was illegal. But by late last night some 150 garbage trucks had offloaded at the Ano Liosia dump and Athens Municipality crews were collecting garbage across the city. Earlier, Mayor Dora Bakoyianni had filed suit against unnamed people, saying that the government and workers were obliged to obey the court ruling. «Athens Municipality has no other option. Greece is not a jungle,» she said. The Interior Ministry stepped in and called on the Public Order Ministry to provide police to help end the strike when it became apparent yesterday that the POE-OTA federation would not end its strike and that Attica’s union of municipalities would not call on prosecutors to help force an end to the strike. The latter union is also responsible for the Ano Liosia dump. «They are playing with fire and with demands that are not consistent with such action,» Interior Minister Costas Skandalidis said, repeating his call for workers to end their strike. Municipal workers of Athens proper (and not of the Greater Athens area) are members of another federation and were not on strike. But because the dump was closed they could not collect garbage. In other municipalities, also, participation in the strike was reported to be low but the closed dumps meant that garbage stayed on the streets. Among workers demands are for more pay and for private companies not to be allowed to collect garbage. Police used tear gas and clashed with protesters at the Thessaloniki dump and were involved in scuffles with strikers outside the Ano Liosia waste facility. In the latter case they had to form a cordon around Athens Deputy Mayor Nikos Apergis when striking workers moved against him angrily. No arrests or injuries were reported. POE-OTA federation members voted late on Thursday to continue their strike yesterday and not to return to work over the weekend. Among those who voted to continue the action were the federation’s president, T. Balasopoulos, and other members of ruling PASOK, while representatives allied with New Democracy voted for the strike’s suspension.