Brussels police hold 'sick-in' on EU summit day

2 min

Brussels (AFP)

As world leaders descend on the Belgian capital Brussels, hundreds of police officers called in sick on Wednesday to protest working conditions.

A police spokesman said about 20 percent of Brussels city's 2,600 police officers -- more than 500 officers -- declared themselves "absent due to illness".

The neighbouring Montgomery sector, where 585 police officers are assigned, also deplored "a big impact" linked to the protest, called on Monday by three unions.

The action comes as the European quarter of Brussels hosts a two-day European Union summit -- starting Wednesday evening -- followed by a Europe-Asia meeting on Thursday and Friday.

"The summit is going to take place and the police will be there. We are at the negotiation table to find solutions," said Ilse Van De Keere, spokeswoman for the Brussels-Capital-Ixelles police zone, which operates around the European institutions.

"The different police zones will help each other and service to the population will be provided," said Wout Monteyne of the nearby Montgomery zone.

EU summits are held several times a year with police reinforcements called from all over the country -- and even the Netherlands -- to allow city police stations to operate as normally as possible.

Staffing was expected to be tight later in the week.

The "sick-in" was advised by unions in order to get around rules that can force striking workers back to work.

Officers are angry over a pension reform, paid sick leave and recurrent staff shortages.