Strikers in prisons change tactics: “The exact opposite of what Minister Van Tigchelt should do”

Strikers in prisons change tactics: “The exact opposite of what Minister Van Tigchelt should do”
Strikers in prisons change tactics: “The exact opposite of what Minister Van Tigchelt should do”

The indefinite strike lasted a month. Every day there was a strike in a different prison, in protest against overcrowding and aggression. But that has now come to an end. The socialist and liberal unions have stopped their actions, ACV will do so next Tuesday.

But they don’t do that because the problems they raise would be solved. The unions are switching to 48-hour strikes per province. The socialist trade union ACOD has already issued a strike notice for Flemish Brabant on May 13, and together with the liberal trade union also for Limburg on May 14. A notification would also follow for West Flanders.

“We are changing strategy to take the pressure off the staff,” says Robby De Kaey, secretary for ACOD. “Staff members were no longer granted leave days, so to speak, due to this indefinite strike. There was also constant uncertainty as to whether they would be requisitioned for the minimum occupancy.” The pause in the strikes should now give employees the opportunity to take vacation days. After that, there would be less uncertainty about the claims due to targeted strikes of 48 hours each.

Short sentences

This does not yet end the showdown between the unions and the Minister of Justice, Paul Van Tigchelt (Open VLD), on the contrary. For the time being, Van Tigchelt has only intervened by expanding the penitentiary leave. As a result, the prison population has fallen from 12,300 to approximately 12,100. The number of so-called floor sleepers, who sleep on a mattress in an overcrowded cell, has fallen from 260 to 70.

According to the unions, this is far too little, but Van Tigchelt does not seem to want to go any further. The most important measure they ask for is a pause button in the execution of short sentences. Any sentence under three years would then be temporarily not carried out. They also propose to temporarily reintroduce a corona measure, namely to release detainees a few months earlier than expected. These interventions should reduce the prison population from 12,100 to 10,700.

Certainly with regard to short sentences, Van Tigchelt does not intend to respond to this, on the contrary. Last week, in a campaign video for Open VLD, he touted that every punishment in this country is carried out. Something that again worked like a red rag to a bull for the unions. “That is just the opposite of what he should do,” said Robby De Kaey. “Instead of campaigning, he would be better off solving the problems in the prisons.”

Rock solid

Despite the end of the general strike, the conflict remains at a stalemate. Another meeting will take place next Tuesday between the Ministry of Justice and the trade unions, but it does not look like this will yield much. Van Tigchelt himself is currently also passing the hot potato on to his Prison Service administration, which is leading those conversations.

In addition, there is also a solidarity action on Wednesday by the trade unions, who, among other things, oppose the plan to be able to requisition prison staff from day one.

READ ALSO. After 38 years at the head of the prison, Hans Claus steps down with a remarkable statement: “Prisons don’t work. We don’t need them”

READ ALSO. Minister Van Tigchelt (Open VLD) addresses prison guards in a new letter: “My end goal is zero ground sleepers”

READ ALSO. Number of prisoners who were given a month’s leave against overcrowding must not return to prison (for the time being).

The article is in Dutch

Tags: Strikers prisons change tactics exact Minister Van Tigchelt


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