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Prison staff on strike across Belgium

17:16 19/06/2018

Prison personnel across Belgium went on strike this morning in protest at the government’s plans to implement regulations that would require a minimum of service during strikes. The proposal is similar to others in the works for minimum services during strikes in the public sector, most notably within rail authority SNCB.

Some 43% of staff did not show up for work this morning in French-language prisons in Brussels and Wallonia, while Dutch-speaking prisons saw up to 35% absence. In the women’s prison in Forest, not one worker clocked in. In all cases, personnel shortages are being made up by local police.

Federal justice minister Koen Geens presented his department’s preliminary proposal for minimum services in prisons last Friday, but unions found it “unacceptable”. An ACOD union spokesperson said that talks up to now had not led to any concrete agreements and that Geens proposal was not approved by them.

Saint-Gilles full, says mayor

Geens has been working on the proposal for months, in response to the EU’s demands that Belgium meet minimum standards for the maintenance of prisons when personnel are on strike. It includes basic safety and service standards such as making sure prisoners can shower at least twice a week.

Unions are consulting personnel today regarding the proposal before deciding whether the strike will continue tomorrow.

In related news, Saint-Gilles mayor Charles Picqué announced today that the men’s prison in his Brussels municipality would not accept any more prisoners. It is already housing 30 more prisoners than its 850 capacity. “Even 850 is too many,” he said. “And we keep getting more.”

Picqué also sent a letter to federal interior minister Jan Jambon asking for federal police to be brought in to replace prison personnel who are on strike, noting that the Brussels police have their hands full with World Cup events.

Photo: Prison in Tournai
©David Stockman/BELGA

Written by Lisa Bradshaw