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Incidents of aggression against Brussels refuse workers on the rise

12:02 27/04/2024

Cases of aggression against employees of the capital’s cleaning service Bruxelles-Propreté increased from 122 in 2022 to 157 in 2023, said Brussels environment minister Alain Maron (Ecolo).

Most of these incidents involved verbal abuse and threats, he pointed out. Physical violence against Bruxelles-Propreté staff was involved in around 30 cases, and the majority of offences were committed at recycling centres and on the street.

One of the main centres for aggressive incidents was Forest’s Recypark Humanité (Boulevard de la Humanité). Some 38 incidents took place at the recycle park, which is one of the capital’s major sites. Schaerbeek topped the list of offending municipalities for street incidents with 17 acts of violence against staff.

It was also noted that in 2023, staff took a total of 1,062 days off work. To help prevent abuse, staff now work in groups for street cleaning and litter bin emptying rounds. In addition, Bruxelles-Propreté asks its workers to lodge a complaint and to inform the organisation, according to the minister.

Maron revealed the figures in an answer to a written question by MP David Weytsman (MR). According to the centre-right deputy, over the last five to six years there has been an increase in acts of violence against all public officials and representatives of public services. This “bitter observation” was true of every municipality, said the Liège-born politician.

To improve the situation, Weytsman insisted on a three-pronged approach: boosting the care and support available for victims by increasing human and financial resources; applying zero tolerance to any infraction; and, instilling “public education” in Brussels.

On this third point, he said citizens should be reminded to respect people and public services. “Even if we’ve come a long way in some neighbourhoods, we must not give up. It’s not inevitable,” he added.

Photo: ©Bruxelles-Proprété Facebook page

Written by Helen Lyons