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Police unions consider wider strike action over pay and conditions

Illustration shows the logo of VSOA - SLFP police union inside the departure hall of Brussels airport in Zaventem. (BELGA PHOTO ERIC LALMAND)
05:52 09/11/2021

Tensions between police unions and interior minister Annelies Verlinden have increased over pay rises and working conditions to the point where representatives are now talking about "broken promises" and the possibility of more strikes and demonstrations by officers.

Officers have recently staged blockades near the airports of Charleroi and Zaventem after initial positive signals from the government in relation to salary increases failed to turn into concrete offers, with many accusing the interior minister of back-tracking.

"It is a double blow from the minister,” said Eddy Quaino of the CGSP-Police union. “There is no salary revaluation and worse, we are told there will be no adjustment to our pensions when we come to the end of our careers, so it is really a big slap in the face for the police who are always on the frontline whether it is in the health crisis, or in more critical events such as attacks for example."

Raoul Moulin of the CSC union feels the same way. "It has been more than 20 years since our police colleagues had a salary revaluation, and still we have nothing," he said. "We are also trying to make joining the police force a more attractive career opportunity. That is not the way to do this. And we know that it is a painful job. The health crisis has demonstrated this with a very high proportion of police officers who have been affected, almost one in two people.

"What we have increasingly noticed during the health crisis, is that it is the jobs that we need the most that are the most poorly paid, whether it is the caregivers or the people who ensure your safety every day, it cannot continue like this. We've had enough."

Thierry Belin of the National Union of Police and Security Forces brought up the issue of working standards in the police. “Did you know that we work with personnel standards which date back to 1998? What company or organisation still works with standards that are more than 20 years old? There is no such thing. These are political choices that must be made and if we had had a Minister of the Interior who had really defended us as she had committed herself to doing, we would not be in the situation in which we find ourselves today."

In response to this perceived lack of support, police unions are preparing to take action on a national scale. Strike notices will be filed on 17 November with the relevant authorities and a first demonstration is more than likely to follow soon after. Sporadic actions such as those recently carried out in the vicinity of airports are also to be expected.

Written by Nick Amies