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Some French prison guards end stike, two unions hold out

Gendarmes clear the access during a demonstration of prison officers on January 25, 2018 in front of the Nancy-Maxéville prison as part of a nationwide movement to call for better safety and wages
Gendarmes clear the access during a demonstration of prison officers on January 25, 2018 in front of the Nancy-Maxéville prison as part of a nationwide movement to call for better safety and wages JEAN CHRISTOPHE VERHAEGEN / AFP
2 min

The largest of three French prison guard unions spearheading a nationwide strike said on Friday it would accept a government proposal on better pay and staff safety.

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The UFAP-Unsa union said its acceptance would end picketing and work stoppages by its members. Two other labor unions have rejected the government offer of more hires, pay bonuses and measures to better contain inmate violence.

However two other smaller unions, the CGT and FO, rejected the measures announced by Belloubet which include new equipment to manage Islamic extremists behind bars, including maximum security cells, as well as the creation of 1,100 new prison jobs.

The justice minister also announced a package worth 30 million euros in extra pay for guards who have faced a series of attacks from violent prisoners in recent weeks, which have been widely reported in France.

The action by the guards, the most significant in two decades, was the first major industrial dispute faced by the government under President Emmanuel Macron since his election in May last year.

Belloubet told Europe 1 radio on Friday that government was making "very serious offers", while calling for "a sense of responsibility, an appreciation of the situation."

France's prisons administration said 116 of the country's 188 jails were affected by the protests on Thursday, with guards at 42 facilities refusing to show up for all or part of their shifts.

Only about 60 prisons experienced work stoppages early Friday.

Conditions in French prisons have long been a source of anger among prisoners and guards, and an embarrassment for the state, with Macron once describing them as "disgraceful".

Adding to the guards' grievances is the radicalisation of inmates who come under the sway of jailed Islamist extremists and jihadists.

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