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    Prison unions strike over minimum service proposals


    Prison staff across the country are continuing a strike begun yesterday in protest at government plans to introduce a mandatory minimum service during industrial disputes. This morning, some 37% of officers in prisons in Wallonia turned up for work; in Flanders the figure was barely 22%, the prison authority said. In prisons in Arlon, the women’s prison in Forest in Brussels, Ittre, Lantin and Namur, no staff turned up at all.

    The prison authority said there was a police presence at prisons in Jamioulx (photo) and Tournai.

    Over in Flanders, the numbers in some prisons were even lower than the 22% figure suggests: Beveren (16,13%), Bruges (14,61%), Ghent (13,33%), Hasselt (8,62%), Leuven Central (17,65%), Merksplas (19,05%) and Saint-Gilles (7,69%).

    Unions in the south of the country had been worried that prison officers in Flanders would not continue with the strike, after nearly 70% of them turned up for work on Tuesday, compared to about half of French-speaking officers.

    The government plans to guarantee a minimum service in prisons during long-running strikes, which means some officers would be obliged to work – described by unions as a breach of the fundamental right to strike.

    The government argues that Belgium has been criticised for the lack of basic rights for prisoners during strikes, including showers and visits. Union representatives are due to meet with federal justice minister Koen Geens today at 1230.

    Alan Hope
    The Brussels Times