Greek garbage workers protest over jobs as trash piles grow

ATHENS (Reuters) - Hundreds of striking Greek sanitation workers protested in Athens on Thursday over jobs as steaming mountains of garbage piled up across the country as a 10-day strike dragged on.

Heaps of rotting rubbish have been steadily growing in Athens neighborhoods, raising fears of health risks as the country swelters in its first heatwave of the year.

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ATHENS, GREECE - JUNE 29 : Mounds of rubbish due to the ongoing municipal workers' strike are seen in Athens, Greece on June 29, 2017. (Photo by Ayhan Mehmet/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ATHENS, GREECE - JUNE 29 : Mounds of rubbish due to the ongoing municipal workers' strike are seen in Athens, Greece on June 29, 2017. (Photo by Ayhan Mehmet/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A man looks for recyclable cardboard from a pile of uncollected garbage on a street corner during a refuse collection strike by municipal workers in Athens, Greece, on Wednesday, June 28, 2017. The change in sentiment toward Greece -- the epicenter of the European financial crisis -- is reflected in the fact that countrys bond yields are the lowest since before the turmoil even as the debt remains deep in junk territory. Photographer: Kostas Tsironis/Bloomberg via Getty Images
ATHENS, GREECE - JUNE 27: Pedestrian are forced to walk on streets because hills of garbage are blocking pavements as mounds of rubbish festered in soaring temperatures in Athens because of municipal workers' strike on June 27, 2017 in Athens, Greece. With rubbish piling up in parts of the city, Athens municipality urged residents not to take out their waste as temperatures topped 36 Celsius. (Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)
10.000 short contract municipal workers are protesting with a continuous strikes for more than a week, leaving the whole country's garbage on the street demanding the extension of their contract. Authorities asked people to keep their trash at home as there are issues with public health due to the increased high temperature as the country is facing a heatwave. Municipality of Thessaloniki is trying to resolve the situation by turning to the private sector, a move that is against the will of the municipal labour unions. In Thessaloniki tourists avoid the main squares and popular streets as the smell and the view of the city is disgusting. (Photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
ATHENS, GREECE - JUNE 29 : A municipal workers shouts slogans as he takes part in a strike to demand extending their contracts from local authorities (Greek Union POE-OTA) at Karaiskakis Square in Athens, Greece on June 29, 2017. (Photo by Ayhan Mehmet/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ATHENS, GREECE - JUNE 29 : Municipal workers hold a banner as they walk from Karaiskakis Square to parliamentary building, during a strike to demand extending their contracts from local authorities (Greek Union POE-OTA) in Athens, Greece on June 29, 2017. (Photo by Ayhan Mehmet/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ATHENS, GREECE - JUNE 26 : Fully loaded garbage cans are seen as cleaning workers attend a demonstration against municipalities that did not extend their contracts in Athens, Greece on June 26, 2017. (Photo by Ayhan Mehmet/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
People walk past a pile of garbage in Piraeus, near Athens, Greece June 26, 2017. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis
Municipal workers shout slogans during a rally against job layoffs in central Athens, Greece, June 29, 2017. REUTERS/Costas Baltas
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With temperatures above 40 degrees (104 Fahrenheit) in some parts of the country, public sanitation workers who say their jobs are under threat marched through central Athens, many of them wearing their fluorescent work vests.

Some chanted "Tsipras your contract is up," a reference to Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, whose creditor-mandated austerity has seen him trailing in opinion polls.

"We want them (the government) to meet their promises. They promised to give us permanent jobs," said one worker, Marina Tsoukala, 57.

"I'm close to pensionable age ... what private company would take us on?"

Garbage collectors fear job losses from new regulations governing short-term contract workers in the broader public sector, which includes local government. A court order banning extensions to short-term contracts could leave up to 10,000 jobs on the line.

Greek authorities had offered a compromise, giving existing contractors precedence in getting contract renewal.

Job security is a sensitive issue in Greece, where one in four is unemployed as the country wrestles with its seventh year of austerity sought by international creditors in return for bailouts.

With temperatures soaring, Athenians were advised to keep rubbish indoors to avoid it becoming fodder for rodents out on the streets.

However, many neighborhoods were struggling with piles of trash overflowing from large wheelie bins.

"Its simply intolerable," said a woman who only identified herself as Vassiliki, 40.

"I live on the fifth floor and the stench wafts up there. There are mosquitoes and flies, the smell is just awful."

(Writing by Michele Kambas; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

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