Monday’s new meeting between the temporary municipal workers union (POE-OTA) and Greek Minister of the Interior Panos Skourletis ended in a deadlock.
As a result, piled-up trash will remain on the streets of Athens and other cities across Greece, with temperatures rising dangerously as a heat wave is expected on Thursday.
Trade unionists continue to demand that the contract workers become permanent municipal employees, otherwise, they say, the strike will go on indefinitely. So far it is scheduled to last through Thursday.
Skourletis said that the legislative proposal presented POE-OTA lacks legal ground, following a Court of Audit decision that renewing limited time contracts is unconstitutional.
The minister proposed that he will table an amendment in parliament that would allow for a final eight-month extension of contracts and then proceed to hire about 2,500 through the official channel of the Supreme Council for Civil Personnel Selection (ASEP).
POE-OTA spokesperson Nikos Trakas, in his statements, accused the minister of having taken the decision to privatize the municipal cleaning sector by leaving 10,000 people without work and called for a meeting of the federation with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.
“On Thursday, we will have a nationwide rally and we will go to Maximos Mansion. We ask the government to resolve our problem. The citizens are with us. We continue the struggle, Trakas told reporters.
Strikers clash with police outside ministry building
Earlier in the morning, tensions arose during the POE-OTA protest rally. The temporary workers gathered at Karaiskakis Square in central Athens and marched to the interior ministry building.
A group of protesters tried to invade the premises but were confronted by riot police. The workers hurled water bottles and coffee cups at the entrance of the building.
Meanwhile, the minister was speaking at Alpha 98.9 FM saying that the workers’ demands lead nowhere because the Court of Audit will not allow for their contracts to be extended indefinitely. He estimated, however, that they will eventually come around and stop the strike action.
The minister explained that with his proposal, the contract employees will continue to work through March. “If they do not accept the proposal, they are paving the way for those forces that want to commission garbage collection to private companies,” he said.
Skourletis further said that through ASEP the number of hirings might exceed 2,500, provided that municipalities have the funds to cover the wages.
Public Prosecutor intervenes
At the same time, a prosecutor’s intervention made the situation even more explosive. Head of the Prosecutor’s Office, Ilias Zagoraios, ordered a preliminary investigation to be carried out to determine whether violations related to environmental pollution and the likelihood of public health hazards are being committed.
The investigation will be carried out by prosecutor Dimitris Gyzis, who will also call the first witnesses to testify and will evaluate the information already at hand.
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