Municipal workers prepare protests, repeating demands for pay, benefits Street-cleaners and other municipal workers are to stage a 48-hour strike from next Friday, February 22, following yesterday’s decision by local government workers, who say the Interior Ministry has not yet even invited them to discuss their demands. Among the demands of workers are equal pay for permanent and contract workers, contracts for 2002, the payment of bonuses, retirement lump-sums and pensions. The municipal workers held a strike for several days in December. PENSIONERS Unionists call for strikes, demand EU-level pensions Pensioners yesterday claimed the government was taking them for a ride by increasing their pensions by a «measly» 3.5 percent last week, and announced protest marches in Athens and other major cities for Tuesday, February 26. The average pension payment in Greece is half the EU average, members of pensioners’ unions claimed in a press conference. Unionists wrote to Prime Minister Costas Simitis last month demanding an immediate relief bonus of 100,000 drachmas to cover alleged losses resulting from price hikes associated with the euro’s introduction. PIGS Giant farm sparks Thessaly fears The entire water table of Thessaly could be contaminated by effluent from a giant pig farm planned for the vicinity of Megala Kalyvia near Trikala, opposition New Democracy MP Sotiris Hadjigakis charged yesterday. He said the 35-billion-drachma Hellas Farm unit would hold about 100,000 pigs, producing as much solid and liquid waste as a city of 650,000 people. Young, jobless Greece has the highest unemployment rate in the European Union among high school graduates (15 percent), according to a European Commission survey published yesterday. The union average is 7.9 percent. Unemployment among university graduates (7.9 percent) is well above the 4.9 percent EU average. Israeli visit Foreign Minister George Papandreou will today discuss the latest developments in the Middle East and Greek-Israeli relations with the chairman of the Israeli Parliament, Avrahum Burg, who is on an official visit to Greece until tomorrow. One the eve of his visit with the Knesset leader, Papandreou yesterday expressed his support for Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and called for the creation of «a free, viable, democratic Palestinian state.» Prison violence Justice Minister Philippos Petsalnikos yesterday called for disciplinary action to be taken against two convicts of Halikarnassos prison on Crete after another convict told prison authorities the two men have allegedly been beating, humiliating and sexually abusing him for the past six months. Athens bank robber Marinos Hatzis, 31, and Stamatis Bouropoulos, 33, who is serving a life sentence for murder, allegedly forced the unnamed convict, 29, to wash and clean for them. Hatzis also allegedly sexually abused the man, who is now in hospital. Hatzis and Bouropoulos, now in solitary confinement, will be transferred to another prison in 10 days. Weapons cache A Greek man and a Romanian woman faced an Athens prosecutor yesterday after a police raid on their home in Athens’s Kallithea district unearthed a cache of weapons including 41 firearms and 27 knives. Immigration talks Public Order Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis is today in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, for an informal meeting of EU justice and and interior ministers to discuss the union’s strategy for combating illegal immigration and human smuggling, and tightening border controls. Ministers will also attempt to delineate the role of Europol. Chrysochoidis yesterday responded to protesting police unionists who say officers are overworked, stressing that legislation limiting the working week to 32 hours would be enforced. Bodies confused The families of two elderly men who died earlier this week on the Aegean island of Lesvos were yesterday forced to delay the burials of Chiot Adamantios Kallikis, 66, and Themistocles Kapetanas, 80, from Lesvos, after two foreign workers in the island’s morgue misread the body tags, sending the local man to Chios and keeping the Chiot on Lesvos.