Mayor warns of health risk from garbage

Authorities have warned of health risks from the massive rubbish piles gathering on Athens streets, as bank and power company employees decided yesterday to extend protest action opposing government pension reforms. Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis admitted yesterday there is a risk of «sporadic» outbreaks of infection due to the uncollected trash since bacteria «that causes gastroenteritis can be transmitted by vermin.» «There is no risk of a general epidemic at this stage,» said Kaklamanis, who also heads KEDKE, a union of municipalities from all around the country. «We have recommended that municipalities spray garbage with specially approved chemicals.» The spray treatment provides partial, not full, protection and disinfection, added Kaklamanis. Municipality employees have been on strike for more than a week in protest at the government’s pension reforms bill, bringing a halt to rubbish collection services. Piles of trash in some parts of the city center have spread over a distance of up to 10 meters, giving off a stench that covers large areas. Some municipalities have hired private operators to gather trash and dump it in illegal landfills on the outskirts of the city, creating further environmental problems. Municipal workers are scheduled to meet tomorrow night to decide whether they will go back to work. With the country headed for a general strike on Wednesday, the bank workers’ union (OTOE) and Public Power Corporation employees announced they will continue to strike on Monday and Tuesday. «We are not giving up the fight. We demand withdrawal of the bill,» OTOE said in a statement. Lawyers will also be on strike next week. Lawmakers are expected to vote on the reforms on Thursday which include the merging of some 150 pensions funds into just a handful. The conservatives say the social security system could go bust in 15 years if no action is taken.

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