Trash piles up as strike continues

Concerns about the health implications of mounting piles of rubbish in Greece’s capital intensified yesterday when Athens refuse collectors went back on strike just days after a court had ruled their action, which is entering its third week, illegal. City of Athens garbage men had begun to collect trash on Monday but some 850 contract workers walked off the job yesterday in protest at the government’s plans not to offer them full-time positions and not to recognize the time they have spent in their current jobs as a factor when permanent positions become available. «If the draft law concerning contract workers does not change, we will continue our strikes,» said the president of the POP-OTA union, Panagiotis Velentzas, who claimed that 1,600 full-time refuse collectors were also on strike in solidarity with their colleagues. «Our working conditions are tragic,» said Velentzas. «We work for 700 euros a month without any overtime pay for night or weekend work.» The workers said that they are holding a 48-hour strike, which may be extended pending a meeting of the union of municipal employees (POE-OTA) this morning. The municipal employees have already been protesting for the last three weeks and, as trash piles up on the city’s streets, health experts have advised people to hold on to their rubbish. «It would be useful for bags that contain food scraps to be kept in a cool place, maybe on the balcony,» said public health professor Jenny Kremastinou. «If the strike goes on many more days, we could begin to see some public health problems, such as cases of gastroenteritis, skin rashes and insect bites.»

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