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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 April 2006, 23:12 GMT 00:12 UK
Health fears amid Athens strike
By Richard Galpin
BBC News, Athens

People walk past mounting rubbish in Athens, 13 April 2006
The strike has lasted nine days so far
Greek public-health experts have warned that illnesses such as salmonella could break out in the capital, Athens, if a strike by refuse-collectors continues.

The industrial action began last week and already it is estimated that 40,000 tonnes of rotting garbage have built up on the streets.

Talks between the government and union leaders to resolve the dispute again failed to get under way on Thursday.

As a result, the union immediately announced a 24-hour strike extension.

Huge mounds of putrefying rubbish have been building up across Athens since the strike began in the middle of last week.

'Disgusting'

With the temperature reaching more than 20C during the day, there are now real fears about the impact on the health of the city's large population.

One woman, Eleni, told the BBC: "We think that it's horrible, it's disgusting, there is an unbearable smell everywhere. We are terrified that diseases might spread everywhere. We have to shut doors, to close windows, so that no fly or mosquito gets in the flat. It's a horror."

The refuse collectors want their work to be classified as hazardous, which would mean better benefits.

They also want a pay increase. Residents such as Eleni and some businessmen have told the BBC they agree the refuse collectors do have legitimate grievances.

But many are angry with the means being used to get the government to take notice. The question now is whether the two sides will ever sit down to reach a negotiated settlement.

The need is urgent. Apart from the impact on the city's four-million inhabitants, large numbers of foreign tourists are also starting to arrive.


SEE ALSO:
Greek unions call general strike
21 Jun 05 |  Business


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