World, Europe

Protesting Greek firefighters occupy ministry building

Emergency workers' 5-year contracts set to expire on Friday, despite earlier promises

08.02.2017
Protesting Greek firefighters occupy ministry building A firefighter holds a flare and shouts slogans during a protest, held for extension of their contracts, in front of Greek Ministry of Administrative Reforms building in Athens, Greece on February 08, 2017. Firefighters temporarily occupy Greek Ministry of Administrative Reforms building. ( Ayhan Mehmet - Anadolu Agency )

By Idyli Tsakiri

ATHENS

More than a thousand Greek firefighters occupied a ministry building in Athens on Wednesday, demanding the renewal of their contracts.

The firefighters took to the streets on Wednesday morning, marching outside parliament and the prime minister’s office.

Later they went to the Ministry of Administrative Reform and e-Governance, which they occupied after breaking a glass door, demanding a meeting with the minister.

The emergency workers say they are willing to spend the night there, unless they get a definite solution to their complaint.

Protesters say their employment contracts will expire this month despite a 2011 law which hired more than 5,000 firefighters for five years.

The firefighters say they were due to be either rehired for a further five years or given permanent contracts.

However, these contracts expire on Friday and the government still has not tenured the firefighters, claiming it needs permission from Greece’s European creditors first.

“We are playing with fire and they [the government] are playing with peoples’ lives and security,” said Anastasios Giannitsakis, one of the protesters.

Although government officials were not immediately available to comment, a ministry statement claimed the “legitimacy of the tenure procedures for the firemen on five-year contracts is unquestionable”.

The firemen will continue to perform their services until the issue is resolved, the ministry added.

George Oikonomopoulos, president of the firefighters’ association of Southwest Greece, told Anadolu Agency if the issue is not resolved by Friday, they will turn to the Greek courts.

"All we are asking for is for the law to be implemented. What they are doing is illegal," he concluded.

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