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Belgian Brink’s staff vote return to work

Striking staff at the Belgian subsidiary of US security firm Brink’s, whose plea for bankruptcy was thrown out by a court last week, opted Saturday to return to work.

Workers who were sacked during the strike in a failed company bid to file for bankruptcy voted to accept new terms offered late on Friday to return to their jobs Monday while owners negotiate, alongside unions, with potential buyers.

“The workers backed a protocol agreed late on Friday allowing all 450 staff to have their employment conditions, status and wage guarantees restored, on an open-ended basis,” SECTa Brussels branch organiser Valerie Van Walleghem told AFP after the lunchtime ballot.

Workers voted by 188 to 38 with just one abstention.

“The idea is that the staff guarantees the functioning of the company so we don’t lose important clients” including major banks in Belgium like ING and La Poste, whose cash distributors have been affected by the strike. As many as one in five cash machines at BNP Paribas banks were empty.

“We’re not out of the woods yet, the company could still go bust — but this will allow the provisional administrator to move forward and stop the big clients from cancelling contracts.”

The decision ends two weeks of strikes and protests by staff, who were originally facing a change in job description and pay in line with the firm’s cost-cutting plans.

Originally, a partial return to work by 30 staff was proposed.

A Brussels commercial tribunal rejected its bankruptcy claim on Wednesday saying administrators had “no judicial grounds” to move its most profitable business, diamond transport, into a new company ahead of the plea.

The subsidiary of the Philadelphia-based giant is also facing charges of bankruptcy fraud after declaring the company in the red last Friday and firing 450 people.

Belgian newspaper Le Soir said the company’s main creditor was its US owner to whom it owed 11 to 14 million euros.