SANTIAGO – Some 13,000 Chilean prison guards started a nationwide strike on Monday to demand improved pay and working conditions.
The president of the ANOP union, Christian Alveal, said all the country’s penitentiaries “have mobilized.”
“Up to now we haven’t received any call from the authorities, so as long as there’s no willingness to talk on their part the strike will continue,” Alveal told the Web edition of La Tercera newspaper.
The guards’ demands include better working conditions and a pay raise similar to the one police received in March.
For its part, the government hopes the strike ends as soon as possible and that it doesn’t affect the judicial system, where a large number of guards also work.
“Court orders are obligatory. The law is very clear and not obeying it carries responsibilities. I trust that (the guards) will act responsibly and the mobilizations don’t go too far,” Justice Minister Carlos Maldonado told the daily El Mercurio.
Guards are keeping those in custody from coming in or going out, having decided not to take them to the courts for trials or hearings.
That situation affects the hearings at the Center of Justice in Santiago and in the rest of the country.
For that reason police have activated a contingency plan at the country’s main detention centers and have admitted people arrested in the last few hours to the Center of Justice by a side door, since the main entry is blocked by the striking prison guards.
Meanwhile, the national director of prison guards, Alejandro Jimenez, dismissed union leaders’ requests made in the light of recent increases in the service’s budget.
Guards also complained of a crisis in the prison system, currently in a state of collapse because a lack of personnel makes it impossible to attend to the more than 100,000 inmates behind bars in Chile.
Strike leaders told reporters that their main goal is to be received by President Michelle Bachelet, since they have no further interest in meeting with the justice minister. EFE