Police at the Belgium airport where last week’s attacks happened are going on strike. The SLFP police union told the BBC on Friday their members had no desire going back on the job because of security concerns.
Vincent Gilles, the president of the SLFP, the largest police union in Belgium, said: “We are on strike because of what happened on 22 March – we cannot continue as if this day has not happened.
“The police feel the security measures put in place by the airport company are insufficient for those who work and use the airport.”
He called for more controlled access to the departures hall, including the use of metal detectors, body scanners and x-ray machines for luggage.
“We also need to check if all the people and luggage that pass through the area are in fact flying to further destinations,” he said.
This is the same union which wrote an open letter claiming there were 50 ISIS supporters working inside the airport. Via Daily Mail:
The officers said they had raised suspicions about certain staff members including those who apparently celebrated after the Paris attacks in November that killed 130 people.
‘When we checked these people, we were surprised more than once. It was men with a radical ideology and a long police history,’ the officers continued.
‘Even today, there are at least 50 supporters of the Islamic state who work at the airport. They have a security badge and have access to the cockpit of a plane.
‘In the past, a number of people had their badges revoked because they had IS sympathies. But clearly not everyone, especially in store personnel, cleaning services and baggage where we find the most suspicious people.’
Police raised concerns about inadequate security at the airport just four days before the attack took place.
The Belgian police union, NSPV, told the interior ministry on Friday 18 March that they would go on strike unless it was improved.
Are they telling the truth? Maybe. Considering the fact the union is also angry about economic and work conditions (including not having enough new uniforms), it’s possible this is simply a negotiating tactic. Financial Times wrote the union had threatened a strike twice over the past year, with the focus being on staff shortages. It’s completely possible the union is just trying to get a better contract out of their bosses and using whatever tactics are available to get it. It seems like a lot of police unions complain about being short staffed as a way to get sympathy from the public. After all, you don’t want to be “that politician” who appears to be anti-police.
But let’s say the union is telling the truth, and there need to be massive security upgrades at the airport. Who would pay for them? The airport is jointly owned by Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, an Australian bank, and the Belgian government. It’s doubtful the OTPP would be willing to do the upgrades (even if they have $171.4B in assets), so that leaves it up to the bank and the government. Belgium is $433B in debt, but the bank has a relative stable rating. It should be noted the police are federalized, so it’s probably the federal government which would pay for this. Perhaps the airport should go to privatized security, and the Belgian government should sell its stake in the facility. That would put the onus on OTPP, the bank, and whoever the third owner would be to get things upgraded.
One thing I have found interesting is even though the American Right is accused of being anti-union (look at how often conservatives praised Scott Walker for his union reform bills), they seem to be willing to defend law enforcement unions on a regular basis. Especially if the union happens to patrol the border with Mexico and complains about low morale. This isn’t saying the U.S. border doesn’t need to be protected or police shouldn’t be supported, but it does show a little bit of a blind spot for those who profess to not like unions and then rush to defend law enforcement. If unions are the corrupt entities the Right likes to say they are, shouldn’t every claim by every union be taken with a grain of salt? Or is it okay to trust law enforcement unions because “they keep us safe”?