Garbage crisis raises health fears in Greece amid strike by municipal workers

June 26, 2017 10:30 pm

A woman walks by piles of garbage in central Athens on June 26, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

A 10-day garbage strike in the Greek capital Athens has posed the possible threat of a public health crisis amid a face-off between the government and municipal workers over labor disputes and austerity cuts.
The disarray was exacerbated on Monday after temperatures were forecast to reach 42 degrees Celsius in the capital by the end of the week, prompting a Greek public health agency to issue a warning over continuing the strike.
“The continued accumulation of garbage … combined with high temperatures poses a risk to public health,” the state-run Center for Disease Control and Prevention said.
Residents in Athens and other Greek cities reported of growing numbers of insects, rats, stray cats and dogs, which are all said to be carriers of infection.

People walk past a pile of garbage in Piraeus, near Athens, , on June 26, 2017. (Photo by Reuters)

Some garbage collectors and municipal crews agreed in spite of the strike to clear refuse in busy tourist areas, outside hospitals and at intersections where reeking piles of rubbish and rotting vegetables were slowing traffic.
Earlier in the day, riot police in central Athens clashed with the striking workers outside the entrance of a ministry building, where a union delegation was expected to present its demands, including better terms for short-term staff and permanent jobs for long-term contract workers.
The strikers fear losing their jobs as Greece is grappling with its seventh year of austerity demanded by international creditors but they show no signs of backing down from their demands.
“We will step up labor action unless the government accepts our demands,” said Nikos Trakas, head of the municipal workers labor union, POE-OTA.
Greece has repeatedly come under criticism by the European Union over failure to manage a more sustainable way of waste disposal and its heavy reliance on open landfills. Brussels has also fined Athens on many occasions for failing to close illegal dump sites.
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