French prison guard union SNP-FO is continuing to strike complaining of poor security and low pay. On Monday, workers from several prisons gathered in front of France's Justice Ministry.
This comes after nearly two weeks of protest when at the end of January the largest of the three French prison guard unions Ufap-Unsa accepted a government proposal for better staff safety and wages.
“The agreement signed is not enough. This document does brings something new in terms of material means but we already have three quarters of this equipment. I mean special gloves, as well as bullet-proof vests, but these bullet-proof vests are completely useless in prison. So we can't talk about any real results, some kind of radical changes,” Thibault Capelle, the FO guard union representative told Sputnik.
He also added that safety issues still haven't been resolved:
“What prison workers now demand are dramatic changes. There's not enough people — there's only one guard for 80 prisoners. There's a real insecurity syndrome in prisons at the moment and we're not be able to cope with all the incidents, we're not able to provide passive security. Today, correctional facilities workers want the whole system to be revised. Yes, this is an enormous task, but we've been asking for many years now for a conference of prison guards to be held, so to speak. And today we're once again holding an absolutely peaceful protest (there are no barricades or tires here) to show the Department of Penitentiary Administration (DAP) that we are here. And the first reaction was that MPs have shown great interest in this issue, in particular in terms of salary and status. If these two things change for the better, this will significantly raise the appeal of our profession and finally resolve the issue of personnel security.”
When asked about how his colleagues, that didn't show up to protest, feel about the agreement Capelle replied: "Our colleagues are not happy, they're just tired, most of them were completely discouraged and couldn't keep their spirits up. And it's cold outside, it's snowing… That's why there’s not as many of us here today, but as you can see people still showed up. And all this is in order to once again show the Ministry of Justice that prison employees will not back down, we will simply go another way. Today, many people called in sick again. Work is disrupted in many prisons."
According to him, "Last time it was with Javad Bendaud — they had to overcome the resistance put up by those on strike to take him out of prison. Today the fight continues. In addition to hampering the work of correctional facilities, there are other ways, and if necessary, we will use them. I think that today this protest is reaching the parliament. And today we entrust our destiny into the hands of the politicians that we elected, including by employees of prisons, because we are, first of all, citizens. And today they must take up this fight, they must take our demands to the very top.”
Sputnik also spoke to another FO union representative who said he feels that the agreement reached, signed by the Ufap-Unsa union is a betrayal:
“We oppose the agreement signed by the Ufap — Unsa union, which is seen by many as a stab in the back, as a betrayal. If we lasted another 48 hours, it would've been possible to press the government more and to achieve what we've been demanding for many years — the recognition of category B (category of staff of the civil service in France), the improvement of the status of our profession, which will make it more attractive. We've been waiting for this requirement to be fulfilled for many years, as well as our wages, which need to be in line with our difficult working conditions. This would allow us to hire employees, now we can't hire or even retain employees who are leaving and looking for other work."
He further noted, "Another aspect is security. We in the FO (Force ouvrière) union don't agree with those agreements that were reached on security. We believe that there's nothing new in the deal, all this already exists. We are told about the means of protection — we already have them. We are told about special shoes — but the administration will save even more money on these shoes, because the shoes they're going to buy are cheaper than the ones we wear now. All this is done simply to divert attention. We came here to say that we will not back down. The trade union "Ufap-Unsa's” signing of the agreement didn't end the strike, so the administration began to threaten, press and punish. They punish our colleagues who go on strike, deduct from their wages and even go as far as to punish our colleagues who are undergoing cancer treatment. Everything's mixed up, it's unclear what's happening. We are here, we'll continue to protest and we'll think about how to compel the government to back down in the coming months and how to achieve our demands in terms of security, pay and status."
After the attack employees at the prison staged a protest, that was followed by weeks of nationwide protests across prisons in dozens of other cities in France, where guards burned tires, clashed with the riot police and blocked entrances.