Antwerp prison guards on strike over staff numbers
26 September 2005
BRUSSELS — Antwerp prison guards will continue a 48-hour strike, rejecting a compromise proposal from Justice Minister Laurette Onkelinx to boost staff numbers.
Staff walked off the job at 6am on Monday to support a demand for more personnel.
They will operate with a minimal regime until more staff are employed.
This means that prison visits have been abandoned until further notice, newspaper ‘De Standaard’ reported.
In a bid to end the dispute, Onkelinx had offered to employ 10 more guards by 1 October, but talks broke down on Monday when unions refused to budge on minimum staffing demands.
If the 10 guards are employed, 244 wardens will be on the personnel list at the prison in October, 16 short of the minimum 260. A new entry exam would then be held in October.
Union delegates said they would present the proposal to union members, but would not promote the offer.
The minister said she was prepared to accept a temporary cut in films screenings and the restriction of sports activities, but was opposed to the cancellation of prison visits.
However, prison director John van Acker said it appeared the unions were aiming for “everything or nothing”.
Meanwhile, a short-lived uprising took place in the Antwerp prison on Sunday night as 80 detainees refused to return to their cells after an evening walk.
Police were dispatched to the prison at about 8.30pm to end the uprising and two hours later, all of the detainees had been returned to their cell.
No violence was reported during the incident and there were no injuries.
The uprising started after inmates had been let out for an evening walk. Two groups of detainees — spread over two walk paths — refused to return to their cell.
When police arrived, one of the two groups decided to end the uprising at the request of attending officers.
However, a second group of about 80 detainees refused. Continued efforts eventually ended the uprising without the need for force.
The uprising came after Antwerp prison guards went out on strike on Friday in protest against the personnel shortage. The prison also operated with skeleton staff over the weekend.
[Copyright Expatica News 2005]
Subject: Belgian news