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Municipality workers cannot reach an agreement with the government — So they protest

Some 10,000 workers who keep Greece clean may lose their jobs soon.

Photos: Panayotis Tzamaros / FOS Photos

The Federation of Municipality and Local Communities Workers (POE-OTA) gathered in central Athens with municipal employees working in sanitation announcing on Thursday to escalate their labour action, a decision that will worsen the situation in Greek cities where garbage piled up. The protest in the center of Athens got heated when some 2,000 staff reached the Ministry of Interiors. They threw garbage at the doors and set it on fire and tried to break the protective barriers to enter the building.
Their union is protesting against a Court of Audit ruling which rejected as illegal an extension of their fixed-term contracts and is demanding their conversion into permanent employment contracts.

Left: Municipality workers trying to enter the Ministry of Interiors, Right: Giorgos Patoulis, mayor of Amarousion and president of KEDE

Some of the protesters tried to attack the president of the Municipalities Union (KEDE), Giorgos Patoulis, who was on his way to meet with the Minister of Interior. KEDE claimed the incident was staged in a statement.

“The 3–4 professional troublemakers who hid themselves deep within the crowd of OTA workers did their job well. First, they attacked the representatives of KEDE led by its president, G. Patoulis, who was scheduled for a meeting with the Minister of Interior. Then, through the trouble they caused gave Minister P. Skourletis an excuse not to attend the meeting he had called for, claiming safety issues.”

On Monday, sanitation workers blocked the entrance to landfills and garbage truck depots, hindering garbage collection. On Tuesday, they started a strike that is ongoing and has created hygiene problems all around the country.

Many employees who have been working as garbage men for years may not see their contracts renewed. They work under fixed-term contracts and rely on the renewal of their employment agreement. Over 6,500 are at risk of losing their job. The unions claim the number is as high as 10,000.

These are their demands:

  • Renewal of contracts as indefinite-term contracts, following private law prescriptions.
  • End flexible employment and bring back permanent hires
  • Abolish a legal provision that allows municipalities to outsource work to private contractors.
  • No scrapping or reduction in unhygienic & dangerous work benefits.
  • Equal pay for equal work.

The Minister of Interior met with the Executive Committee of POE-OTA yesterday, but no agreement was reached. He proposed introducing another round of contracts that would last two months. He provided no answer to the question of the 2,400 unresolved applications for permanent employment that have been submitted from 2016 until today.

POE-OTA holds that these contracts will collapse at the end of their term. They proclaimed that “The disappointment and frustration must be turned into vigorous anger and rallying of workers, so that through their Unions and the Federation the movement is intensified.”

POE-OTA union said they will continue their sit-in in municipal truck depots and blockade of landfills at least until next Thursday (June 29), will abstain from work this weekend (June 24–25), hold a work stoppage on Monday from 11:00–15:00, and a 24-hour nationwide strike on June 29, with protest rallies in Athens and other major cities.
It also said its members will meet next Thursday to discuss its next moves.

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