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French prison unions vote to continue strike

Prison guards picket the Nanterre prison on 18 January
Prison guards picket the Nanterre prison on 18 January Philippe LOPEZ / AFP

Pickets were outside several French prisons on Sunday morning after mass meetings rejected government proposals to end a week-long strike sparked by inmate attacks on guards.

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Two prison officers' unions on Saturday evening said their members had rejected the government's proposals, saying they were "way below the expectations of our striking colleagues".

They were joined by a third union in a call for a "total blockade" of prisons on Monday.

The strike was sparked by an attack by an Islamist inmate in a northern French prison last Monday.

Another attack took place in a Corsican prison on Friday.

On Thursday prisoners refused to return to their cells for several hours after their midday exercise at Europe's biggest, Fleury-Mérogis just south of Paris.

French prison officers have long complained of low pay, insufficient staffing and overcrowding -- the Fresnes prison near Paris is currently at 200 percent capacity.

They also say they are endangered by inmates under the sway of Islamist groups.

Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet issued a statement noting the unions' rejection of the government's offer but did not announce further plans to meet them.

She defended the proposals, pointing to pledges to create 1,400 jobs in prisons over four years and a specific detention regime for radicalised inmates.

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