Garbage piles up as staff protest private contracts

Garbage piles up as staff protest private contracts

Municipal sanitation workers in Athens, Thessaloniki and other major cities are to continue on Wednesday with strike action that has left thousands of tons of festering garbage on the streets amid unseasonably warm weather. 

Workers are protesting the provisions of the conservative government’s growth law which allows certain municipal sanitation, lighting and parks and recreation projects to be privatized.

Existing laws also allow private projects but the new provision facilitates them, requiring the support of the mayor and his or her municipal councillors whereas currently an absolute majority in the council is necessary.

Workers object to what they regard as a privatization drive that could put their jobs at risk, and have pledged to continue their action, culminating in a nationwide 24-hour strike on Thursday when the growth bill is to be voted on in Parliament.

According to the POE-OTA municipal workers’ union the new provisions will also lead to an increase in municipal levies. 

In a bid to appease workers, several mayors have publicly pledged not to dismiss any municipal staff. 

However, according to Michalis Stavrianoudakis, general secretary at the Interior Ministry, needs at municipalities often fluctuate from summer to winter, meaning that a contract with a private firm to boost staff during busier months could be useful in certain cases, particularly in areas popular with tourists. 

Already several days of walkouts have resulted in piles of trash in Athens and other cities.

The City of Athens carried out some garbage collections over the weekend and on Monday in a bid to ease the problem and, in spite of efforts by workers to block access to the capital’s main landfill, 70 percent of garbage trucks deposited their loads at the dump site.

However, trash dumpsters are still overflowing in many neighborhoods and municipal authorities have appealed to citizens not to take their garbage out for the next few days.

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