World

Greece: Garbage piles mount in capital as heatwave looms

With a heat wave expected later this week, Greece's government on Monday failed to persuade striking garbage collectors to return to work after a 10-day protest left huge piles of trash around Athens.

Striking workers scuffled with riot police in central Athens outside the stuttered entrance of the Interior Ministry building, where a union delegation presented its demands.

Nikos Trikas, leader of the municipal workers' union, said the strike would continue at least until Thursday, with more protests planned on that day.

"The government rejected our demands in three minutes. They have taken their decisions and will allow private contractors to participate in garbage collection," Trikas told the AP, surrounded by dozens of striking workers wearing orange caps to shield themselves from the sun.

He said his union would formally request a meeting with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Thursday.

"Basically, they are selling us out, and 10,000 (municipal) workers have no idea what their future will be."

Government officials accused the union representatives of abruptly ending the talks.

Temperatures are forecast to reach 42 degrees Celsius in Athens (107 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the week, prompting a public health agency to issue a warning over the continuing 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.

Despite the strike, municipal crews agreed to collect some garbage in busy tourist areas, outside hospitals and at intersections where tumbling piles of trash were slowing traffic.

Later Monday, the government is due to submit draft legislation to parliament to renew job contracts for thousands municipal garbage works.

Striking unions are demanding that government fulfill commitments to provide permanent jobs for long-term contract workers — an action that could breach strict budget obligations set out under the Greece's international bailout agreements.

Greece has been repeatedly criticized by the European Union for its heavy reliance on open landfills and low rates of recycling, and has been fined on many occasions for failing to close illegal dump sites.

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