UNION leaders have met France’s Justice Minister in an effort to end a nationwide prison blockade launched by guards seeking improved working conditions.

After two failed rounds of negotiations, Nicole Belloubet was expected to present new proposals during the meetings at the Justice Ministry’s headquarters.

Speaking before the meeting, Jean-Francois Forget, head of the Ufap-Unsa union, said he was optimistic progress had been made on the issue of radicalised inmates.

Some radicalised convicts are currently placed among the general prison population, which guards say leads to radicalisation of others.

The national protest started after a radicalised inmate attacked three guards with a knife at a high-security prison in northern France.

The attack at Vendin-le-Vieil was carried out by Christian Ganczarski, a German who converted to Islam and was sentenced to 18 years in prison for his involvement in a 2002 attack on a synagogue in Tunisia that left 21 people dead.

The protests have also affected inmates, with reduced time out of their cells because of the lack of guards.

The majority of France’s 188 prisons are affected.

Yoan Karar, of the Force Ouvriere union, which wants higher wages and the rapid hiring of 2400 staff, told reporters: “We will not be used as cannon fodder. We won’t give an inch.”