(Brussels, BEL) - Trade unions Monday kicked up a storm in Belgium over a rule ordering 10,000 French-speaking civil servants to clock out whenever they stop work for a smoke, with each minute sliced off their wages.
"The rule is that when you go out or come back into a building you clock in," Hugo Poliart, the spokesman for the administration of the French-speaking Wallonia region, told AFP.
But unions say the rule discriminated against smokers.
The order dates back to 2009 but has resurfaced following a request for clarification from one of Wallonia's 400 administrative centres, in charge notably of transport and the environment.
Poliart said it did not target smokers, but anyone leaving the premises, such as "a person who's gone out to buy an apple."
"This stigmatises smokers, and doesn't help combat smoking," said trade unionist Xavier Lorent in the daily Le Soir. "Will they next start harassing people who go out for a coffee or to the toilet?"