Court ruling leaves trash heaps intact

Despite yesterday’s court decision that found their seven-day strike illegal, Athens trash collectors said they would decide today whether to start removing tons of accumulated rubbish from the city’s streets and sidewalks. Following a suit by the Interior Ministry, which has also refused to grant dustmen the 3.9-percent pay raises they want, saying this would be unfair to other municipal employees who will only get 2.5 percent, the court ruled against the strike. One of the reasons it cited was that the trash collectors failed to hold a general assembly before declaring their rolling 48-hour strikes on Friday. Workers who fail to comply with the decision face a 100,000-drachma fine. The union said it would make up its mind today. But the Interior Ministry warned that it would respond with civil mobilization, a draconian measure which threatens offenders with court-martial. Athens Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos stepped into the dispute yesterday, after vowing not to for the past week. He offered to provide the extra 60 million drachmas needed to meet the strikers’ pay demands, and to extend the contracts of 250 employees. But the first would be unconstitutional and the second of dubious legality, while the municipality already owes its full-time employees some 40-million-drachmas-worth of overtime pay. Adding to the confusion, the mayors of Perama and Keratsini closed down the Schistos rubbish collection dump yesterday, demanding that Attica’s local authorities pay them 400 million drs in compensation for the use of the location this year. We must work to solve our differences with good will and on the basis of international principles, he added.

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