OPINION

Social responsibility

The piles of garbage filling the streets of the capital create a suffocating atmosphere and, more crucially, present a public health hazard that increases as long as the waste remains uncollected. Taking into consideration that cleaning up the streets of the Greek capital will take many days after the end of the municipal workers’ strike, it is clear that we cannot afford any games, neither on the part of the government nor from the unions. The recent decision by an Athens court to declare the municipal employees’ strike illegal and and an abuse of the right to strike adds a new dimension to the issue and opens up the possibility of mobilization. The unionists say that they will not comply, and they seem to mean it. Besides, no one wants to see the strike shifting into a clash between the police and the strikers. Instead, the spirit of social responsibility must prevail. The work of garbage collectors is, no doubt, one of the most unhealthy and difficult. No doubt, these people deserve a good wage and better treatment on the part of the State. This, however, does not give their union the right to function as a guild that does not hesitate to exploit the fact that it is in a position to blackmail society by allowing it to drown in a sea of rubbish. Unfortunately, past experience demonstrates that many unionists are acting that way. This is not only socially irresponsible behavior, it also entails danger for the workers themselves. Overstepping the boundaries can backfire. It’s no secret that each time the streets are overwhelmed with waste, the idea of privatizing the municipal sector for garbage collection seems to creep back in, and finds favor more easily among the public. It is the same this time. Given that both main parties, as well as the public, have fewer inhibitions against privatization, the intransigence displayed by the unions could well turn against them. Even if the unionists lack social sensibility, they should at least consider the interests of their sector. On the other hand, we must also take note of the government’s inflexible stance, a stance that carries even more guilt due to the government’s chronic failure to provide a final solution to the problem of waste disposal in Greece and, especially, in the Attica basin. Things had to come to a head for the State to take any action. But even now, the factory at the waste dump remains shut.