French prison guards on Monday launched a nationwide strike in a showdown with President Emmanuel Macron’s government over staff levels and violence that they say is spiralling out of control inside the country’s overcrowded jails.
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.
Guards burned tyres and wooden pallets outside the gates to several jails ahead of talks hastily convened by Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet.
“We will not be used as cannon fodder. We won’t give an inch,” Yoan Karar, a senior Force Ouvriere (FO) union official, told CNews.
His union is demanding higher wages and rapid hiring of 2,400 staff.
Macron’s pressure is under mounting pressure to resolve the unrest among prison staff after several attacks on guards by inmates in different jails in the past week.
On Friday, riot police clashed with guards manning a picket outside the Fleury Merogis prison, where protests first erupted after an Islamist militant jailed over the killing of 21 people in Tunisia in 2000 slashed guards on the head and torso with a pair of scissors in northern France.
Over the weekend, the government also proposed separating France’s most violent inmates from the rest of the 70,000 prison population, one of Europe’s largest.
Source: ( AFP )