Workers at the Brussels penitentiary’s Forest, Saint-Gilles and Berkendael sites have returned to work after ending a 48-hour strike on Friday night.
However, operations at the prison could be disrupted once again on Monday Belga news agency reports, in connection with the nationwide strike called by the General Labour Federation of Belgium, FGTB, and the Confederation of Christian Trade Unions, CSC, Eddy De Smedt, the SPLF-VSOA police union’s permanent secretary for the prisons, said on Friday.
Following the discovery of a novel Coronavirus cluster in a wing occupied by trustee prisoners at the Saint-Gilles penitentiary on 31 October, the CGSP public service federation and the federation of liberal trade unions, CGSLB, had called the strike to denounce overcrowding and understaffing in the prisons.
An agreement was reached between unions and management, but in late November, the prison officers complained about delays in implementing the measures. Their main concern was that difficulty in finding places in other establishments had frozen the planned transfer of prisoners from Saint-Gilles. As a result, the prison continued to house more than 900 detainees whereas its maximum capacity is 850.
On 23 November, Mayor Charles Picqué issued a decree banning the Saint-Gilles penitentiary from taking in any new detainees.
On Thursday, the FGTB and CSC went ahead with the strike. Police reinforcements were called in during the 48-hour period to ensure a minimum service at Forest and Saint-Gilles penitentiaries while the Berkendael women’s prison functioned normally.
The strike ended at 10 p.m. on Friday. However, a consultative meeting planned for 6 December has been called off due to the nationwide strike. An alternative meeting between unions and management is being organised for 7 December.
Mediation between the two parties had already been planned for 8 December at the Department of Labour.