Most of Belgium's prison staff on 24-hour strike

Most of Belgium's prison staff on 24-hour strike
Credit: Nicolas Maeterlinck

A strike by prison officers has disrupted the operation of many penitentiary centres since Tuesday evening, for the third occasion in three weeks. The majority of prisons are affected by this 24-hour strike action, the spokesperson for prisons, Katleen Van De Vijver, confirmed on Wednesday morning.

Police have been called in to take over the responsibility of striking prison officers in numerous locations due to a lack of staff, and the prison regime for detainees has been adapted in many places.

Eddy De Smedt, Secretary of the Free Trade Union of Public Service (SLFP/VSOA), assures that the strikes fall within the remit of federal strike action. The civil service unions have previously filed an unlimited strike notice with the Minister of Civil Service, Petra De Sutter.

The striking prison workers are demanding a revision of their pay scale and a thirteenth month of extra pay. The guards are also striking over a lack of personnel and prison overcrowding.

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“The problems have been dragging on for a long time: the surveillance cameras only work a third of the time and objects are regularly thrown over the wall. Attacks on prisoners are not dealt with adequately,” the union secretary complained.

The first 24-hour strike in prisons took place on 9 November, alongside workers across the country. The next prison strike is scheduled for 7 December, the unions say.

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