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  • A man walks past a pile of garbage in Piraeus, near Athens, Greece, on June 26, 2017.

    A man walks past a pile of garbage in Piraeus, near Athens, Greece, on June 26, 2017. | Photo: Reuters

"We decided to suspend the strike partly because of the heat wave, among other reasons," a union official.

Hundreds of striking Greek municipal workers decided Thursday to suspend a 10-day strike that has left mountains of piled up garbage across the country, raising fears of a public health crisis as temperatures soared.

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The municipal workers union, POE-OTA, which represents the garbage collectors, decided to end the strike and start immediately collecting the garbage.

"We decided to suspend the strike partly because of the heatwave, among other reasons," a union official told the Reuters news agency.

The decision came two days after the union rejected a compromise proposed by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras that would see workers' contracts renewed for several months until full-time hirings are arranged.

Garbage workers fear job losses due to a court order banning extensions to short-term contracts. The leftist Syriza-led government had initially pledged permanent jobs for long-term contract workers but has faced tight budget obligations under Greece's international bailout agreements.

Job security is a sensitive issue in Greece, where one in four is currently unemployed. Many residents were sympathetic to the workers at the start, but that support has come under strain as the rubbish bags pile up bake under the summer sun.

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Temperatures are forecast to reach 42 degrees Celsius in Athens by the end of the week. Residents have reported growing numbers of insects that can be carriers of infection.

"The continued accumulation of garbage ... combined with high temperatures poses a risk to public health," the state-run Center for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Tourism Minister Elena Kountoura also argued that the protest "endangers public health, and is bad for tourism as well as the country's international image."

Union officials said they would explore other forms of labor action in the coming days.

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