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Indefinite strike across Belgian prisons begins

10:07 03/04/2024

An indefinite strike across Belgian prisons began on Monday as unions condemning overcrowding and a lack of solutions.

While the strike has no set end, “we're probably in for a week,” predicted Gregory Wallez, general secretary of the CGSP Justice union.

Unions activated the strike notice after a meeting with minister Paul Van Tigchelt yielded no results.

Unions left the negotiating table when the minister made it clear he would demand minimum staffing levels for the country’s jails throughout any strike.

The minimum staffing procedure introduced a few years ago was being followed in most Belgian prisons. Only the local management of Marneffe prison in Liège requisitioned additional staff to meet a specific quota of workers.

Both the issue of overcrowding and that of minimum service recently came back into the news when a prisoner in Antwerp was found to have been abused by his cellmates for several days during a 48-hour strike by prison staff.

A further consultation meeting is scheduled for Thursday.

“As far as prison overcrowding is concerned, we no longer expect much after the minor measures presented so far,” Wallez said.

Unions are also consulting the office of public health minister Frank Vandenbroucke about the placement of inmates in forensic psychiatric centres.

Written by Helen Lyons