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Police in Brussels demonstrate over low wages, pensions
Around 350 police officers demonstrated in central Brussels on Wednesday, voicing their dissatisfaction with the lack of clarity around pension schemes, low wage scales and politicised police unions. After gathering at Brussels-Central station, the officers headed to the office of Interior minister Annelies Verlinden, before blocking several roads.
"We wanted to convey our grievances to the minister, but she does not want to discuss with us," said Steven Vanhacht, the organiser of the demonstration and a member of the federal judicial police in Liège.
After being snubbed by the minister, the group staged a sit-down protest, blocking traffic on Rue Royale, at the intersection with Rue de Louvain, all under the supervision of police officers from the Brussels Capital-Ixelles police zone.
After half an hour, after being ordered to leave the scene by officers monitoring the scene, the group headed for Place Madou, where demonstrators proceeded to block the inner ring road. After another 30 minutes of occupation, they moved on.
The officers involved in the demonstration say that they did not feel valued either by their own unions, which they believe are politically influenced, or by the government.
"They negotiate with the government without our knowledge and draw up a list of demands without consulting their base," said Vanhacht. "I also wonder why there are no social elections in police unions. If we think they are not combative enough, then we must replace them," he added.
Another concern for these officers is the government's new budget, in which officers are again seeing a lack of investment in the police. They ask for more competitive wages to make the job more attractive.
"The wage scales have not changed in 20 years,” said Vanhacht. “This is unheard of in any Belgian company. If they want to make the service attractive, they must also make the salary attractive. Also, they will abolish early retirement and no one knows at what age we can take our pension. I wouldn't advise a young person to join the police today," he concluded.