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Firefighters and police plan strikes in coming weeks

16:09 28/10/2022

Unions representing Brussels firefighters and police officers are planning to strike in the coming weeks, citing an increased workload and staff shortage that they say has added to an already difficult job.

Each strike will only last one day and the one for firefighters in the Belgian capital - on a day in December yet to be determined - was decided in a meeting early this week with SLFP and CGSP unions.

“A total strike has been decided for the month of December,” siad Eric Labourdette, firefighter and permanent SLFP delegate.

“It will be a first of its kind at the SIAMU of the Brussels-Capital Region. The authority will be forced to use its right of requisition.”

Labourdette reiterated that the union generally does not favour strike actions, but that the situation has become so dire that they feel no other options remain.

“We have to recognise that, faced with the immobility of our political powers towards the agents of the emergency zones, this is unfortunately the only solution left to make ourselves heard.”

Staff say they have to face a constant increase in the number of interventions while at the same time juggling an overload of work in general, on top of a lack of on-call personnel and an increase in aggressions during interventions.

These were just the primary concerns listed, in addition to others.

Firefighters also deplore the loss of their benefits, which allowed them to retire earlier without great financial loss, given the arduous nature of their work.

Police have similar complaints, having emerged from negotiations over pay raises with Belgium's minister of the interior Annelies Verlinden feeling slighted.

Belgian police had not seen a raise in over a decade - and their one-day strike is planned for 9 November.

“The minister had promised us a first phase of upgrading in January 2023,” said Eddy Quaino of the CGSP police union.

“The CGSP did not sign the sectoral agreement because it did not consider it credible, and we were right. We will have to wait until October 2023 for the police to get a small increase.”

Quaino also believes that the recent federal budget agreement reached this month rules out any possibility of a second phase of wage increases.

The strike notice concerns all sectors of the police service, including logistics and administration, said the CGSP.

“Our aim is that all police stations will be closed on this day,” said Quaino.

Written by Helen Lyons