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Firefighters take to street in protest at possible curb to 24-hour shifts
Hundreds of firefighters protested in Rue de la Loi today as talks took place between federal interior minister Annelies Verlinden (CD&V) and fire department unions. The firefighters were protesting at Verlinden’s plan to eliminate 24-hour shifts, which she thinks are too hard on workers.
Firefighters arrived from Wallonia to join their Brussels counterparts in the protest. Eric Labourdette of the VSOA union said that the union did not call for protests, but it supported them. “I can’t hold them back any longer,” he said. “The firefighters are furious.”
Firefighters, many of whom work part time or are volunteers, want to keep the 24-hour shifts because it makes it easier for them to combine the work with another job.
There was no permit for the protest, and the police were present, bringing along two water cannons. They were concerned that the situation would get out of hand. That was not the case, and the water cannons were not put to use.
Traffic was severely affected in Rue de la Loi. Later in the afternoon, protestors headed towards Cinquantenaire, turned back and gathered in front of the interior affairs cabinet building.
The talks in fact went well for the fire department: Verlinden agreed that any departments working with 24-hours shifts could continue to do so in future. Protestors dispersed around 19.00.
Photo ©Paul-Henri Verlooy/BELGA