Nationwide jail strike hits France

Lawrence Kim
January 23, 2018

French police fired tear gas to break up a picket line of striking prison guards outside Europe's biggest prison on Friday as unions pressed a fourth day of strikes across France over security concerns.

Protesting guards are blocking some of France's 188 prisons as the conflict triggered by attacks on guards enters its second week.

Despite talks to resolve the issue that began Tuesday and pledges by President Emmanuel Macron to outline plans for an overhaul of French prisons by the end of February, the unions chose to continue the industrial action.

The strike, starting with pre-dawn pickets, marked an escalation in protests after unions on Saturday rejected a government proposal to employ 100 extra guards this year and a further 1,000 before the 2022 end of Macron's mandate. On Sunday, two prison guards required hospital treatment after they were attacked at a detention centre at Longuenesse prison, near Calais, according to prison officials.

On Thursday, about 120 prisoners refused to return to their cells after their midday walk in the yard.

Despite talks to resolve the protests and pledges by Macron to outline plans for an overhaul of French prisons, the unions chose to continue the industrial action.

Six prisoners who are thought to have led the protest were sent to the punishment block, a prison officers' union source said.

"This is once again an attack on the staff, we cannot stand it anymore: it's a daily thing", said Yannick Lefebvre from Ufap-Unsa union.

France's CGT union, the Force Ouvriere (FO) union and the Ufap-Unsa Justice union are backing up the strike which is joined with guards at prisons that include the high-security institutions Fleury-Merogis and Fresnes prison.

French prison guards launched a nationwide strike on Monday in a showdown with President Emmanuel Macron's government over staffing levels and violence which they say is spiralling out of control in overcrowded jails.

As union leaders held talks with justice minister Nicole Belloubet, police were dispatched to four jails to replace absent guards.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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