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Police to issue no traffic fines for a month in protest over work conditions
After the Belgian government reneged on its earlier promises to maintain existing retirement and pension plans for police officers, unions plan to have officers issue no fines for traffic or parking violations from 15 December to 15 January as an act of protest.
Police unions entered into negotiations with Belgian interior minister Annelies Verlinden some time ago, protesting a move to raise the retirement age for officers from 58 to 63.
They also pointed to the fact that Belgian police officers have not seen a pay rise in more than two decades, which combined with increasing anti-police sentiment from the public has made recruitment of new officers difficult.
But after initially agreeing to maintain the current pension scheme, the Belgian government has reportedly walked back its promises.
In response, VRT reports that police unions are calling on officers not to issue fines for traffic and parking violations for the next month, wherever possible, saying that the federal government has not complied with these agreements, or those on salary increases.
All four police unions (VSOA, NSPV, ACV and ACOD) have declared the period from 15 December to 15 January as "fine-free month".
Only "infringements that directly endanger security" will still be fined, they say, asking that officers assess each situation and act appropriately.
Suggested offences to go unpunished include using a mobile phone behind the wheel, not wearing a seatbelt or cycling without a proper light. Speeding offences may also be forgiven, depending on the severity.
Unions have not disclosed whether speeding cameras will also be turned off. “We will see,” Vincent Houssin of VSOA said.
Initial agreements on a salary raise for police officers promised an increase of €60 net per month in 2023, but the budget agreement that was finally reached instead spread this increase gradually over three years.
“We want to send the signal that the government has broken its word,” said Carlo Medo.
The action does not mean that people will not be pulled over for committing offences, Fabrice Discry of SNPS explained: “It's a month without any fines unless there is a serious and immediate danger. The police officer will still give advice, he will make verbal remarks… but without making money for the state coffers.”
There will not be a total abolition of fines, as serious situations will be dealt with accordingly, but it may be that less drink-driving checks are conducted and few if any parking tickets issued.
Police unions say they are prepared to carry out the action until the government keeps its promises: “If necessary, we will continue until 2024.”