The Belgian medical association has warned its members that signing a medical certificate for a police officer to allow them to take part in a work to rule could constitute a criminal offence. The warning was echoed by the doctors’ union BVAS.
This week some 1,500 police officers across the capital, out of a total force of some 7,000, took part in the protest, which consists of taking sick leave en masse rather than go through the procedure of calling a strike.
More than 800 of the officers concerned work in the Brussels-City/Ixelles zone, which this week saw an EU summit and a European-Asian summit take place, with police having to be drafted in from other zones to make up for the missing officers. Officers who volunteered to step in and replace missing colleagues were offered two days leave in return.
However the law forbids doctors from issuing a medical certificate for absence from work without medical justification, the association said. “A false sick note is tantamount to a forgery,” a spokesperson warned. The federal police are empowered to send their own doctor to inspect an absent officer’s actual condition, although there is no indication the force intends to do so in this case.
And while any officer found faking an illness to excuse an absence would be liable to disciplinary proceedings, a doctor who knowingly issues a certificate without good reason could not only be disciplined but also prosecuted, the association said.
The sick-note protest is the latest phase of police action against changes planned to their status as public sector workers, pressure of work and shortage of manpower.