An ongoing municipal worker strike has led to a major trash buildup across Greece, raising fears over health and safety in major cities, including Athens. The American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that the accumulation of garbage combined with soaring temperatures were a perfect cocktail for infectious diseases to breed, carried by an increased number of rats and stray animals who are attracted by the garbage. Despite the strike, a few municipal crews agreed to collect some garbage in busy tourist areas, outside hospitals, and near major road intersections. Some municipalities, including Thessaloniki, have hired private sanitation workers to deal with the crisis, however the measure has been deemed unsustainable. Meanwhile, high temperatures are expected to continue in the country, with current forecasts warning that temperatures in Athens could reach 42°C (107°F) by the end of this week.
The current strike began on June 19, and is expected to last until at least Thursday, June 29, after talks between the Greek government and the municipal workers' union failed on Monday, June 26, leading to violent protests in central Athens outside the entrance of the Interior Ministry building.
The municipal workers' union has scheduled a protest for Friday, June 30, and further violence cannot be ruled out.
The protesters are demanding that around 10,000 contract municipal workers be permanently hired by the government, amid concerns over job security as Greece enters its seventh year of austerity measures. A Greek high court recently ruled that it is unconstitutional for the government to extend the workers' contracts. The Interior Minister, Panos Skourletis, has offered to hire 2500 workers permanently, which was rejected by the municipal workers' union.
Individuals are advised to avoid all protests and remain vigilant. Monitor developments to the local health situation and take appropriate hygienic precautions (wash hands frequently, avoid areas of trash accumulation, etc.).