Greek Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura on Tuesday called for the country’s municipal garbage collectors to end their strike that is “endangering public health, hurting tourism and defaming the country”.
The nationwide garbage strike was launched last week by the union representing garbage collectors (POE-OTA) over a job dispute with the Greek government involving the rehiring of contract workers whose employment status has expired.
Unionists of POE-OTA met with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Tuesday but were unsatisfied by his proposals, resulting to union head Nikos Trikas stating that the garbage strike will continue until Thursday as planned.
In an announcement, Kountoura urged the unionists to reconsider their decision and to end their protest immediately as the strike is coinciding with a heat wave as well as the beginning of the country’s tourism season.
“The huge piles of garbage, combined with high temperatures, are creating health hazards for Greeks and for foreign visitors in our country,” the tourism minister stressed, adding that the Tourism Ministry has received a wave of complaints from Greek and foreign tourism associations and professionals.
“They call for immediate and drastic interventions to ensure the uninterrupted development of the tourism season and to prevent a blow to the image of the country on a global level,” Kountoura said.
In an announcement on Tuesday, the president of the Greek Tourism Confederation (SETE), Yiannis Retsos, said that the unionists’ decision to continue the strike is “bad news” for the health of residents and visitors in many regions of the country, as well as for tourism and Greece’s image abroad.
“It seems as if we haven’t realized the danger that arises from the extension of the strike. Even today, all parties involved should realize the severity of the situation. Every additional hour without a solution is enhancing the negative impact on society and the economy,” Retsos said.
On his part, the president of the Hellenic Chamber of Hotels, Yiorgos Tsakiris, during a press conference on Tuesday, expressed his disappointment with the situation.
Not wanting to point fingers at who is to blame for the situation, Tsakiris said: “All of our guests and the citizens of this country would be happy if they could walk pleasantly in the city… Visitors will be happy if they could have a good standard of living in the destination where they have paid to visit.”
Athens Mayor Giorgos Kaminis said that the decision of the country’s municipal garbage collectors to continue industrial action was “inappropriate and excessive”, adding that the municipality of Athens will defend public health.
“We call on workers to return to their jobs. This is the only way they will they serve their mission and not come against society,” Mayor Kaminis said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Greece’s garbage strike has attracted international media attention with reports wondering what impact the industrial action will have on the country’s tourism which is expected this year to break records in arrivals.