Post workers sentencedfor harassment
3 December 2003
BRUSSELS – Five post office workers whose harassment of a colleague allegedly led to his suicide were sentenced to a three-month suspended sentence and a fine by a Brussels court Tuesday.
The Belgian Post Office “La Poste” will have to pay a fine of EUR 240,000, while the four postmen and the Wezembeek-Oppem post office chief will have to pay EUR 2,500 each – they also received three-month suspended sentences.
The post office employees were accused of involuntary homicide by inciting the suicide of a young colleague three years ago through harassment.
David Van Gysel ended his life at the age of 21 on 16 October 2000 by throwing himself in front of a train after three months of stress-induced sick leave from his post office job.
According to those close to the victim, David’s death occurred as a direct result of repeated harassment in his workplace – half a dozen witnesses identified the accused as having harassed him.
“They relished in the power they had and took pleasure in the harassment,” Jef Vermassen, David’s parents’ lawyer told the court.
Witnesses explained how newcomers to the Wezembeek-Oppem office were given little training and then ridiculed. The newest recruits would be given the longest and most difficult post routes, hiding letters destined for “problem clients”.
It was one of these “problem clients”, who complained regularly about the work of his postmen, who wrote a letter to David’s parents after his suicide, suspecting that the young man had been a victim of harassment by his colleagues.
All five accused denied they had participated in any kind of harassment, one saying the issue had been blown out of proportion by the media.
“Those who spoke out about harassment at the office simply wanted to get fired so that they could get the dole,” one defendant said.
David had asked for a transfer back to his former Huldenberg post office one week before his death – the letter was given to a union representative to send but got lost in the post.
The five accused were reported to have looked disinterested while in court – Judge Morel reminding them that they were nevertheless facing charges on involuntary homicide.
The defence will plead its case on 16 December.
[Copyright Expatica News 2003]
Subject: Belgian news