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Unfair competition in tattoo and piercing in Belgium during the pandemic -

I wish it were easier to describe and clarify but it's not so linear. The situation is so complex that even the reports, the analyzes, of the great institutions such as Johns Hopkins require the presence of a team of experts to try to find possible interpretations of what we are experiencing.

Let's focus here as a matter of fact, the certain things, those few certainties that we can lay down as foundations to move forward. Yes, the pandemic exists, the virus continues to change incessantly, at a rate proportional and exponential to the infections. Herd immunity was a failed idea, Brazil is the proof. Our way of handling the pandemic in Europe has proved full of gaps, each nation with different rules, but with the virus moving from one point to another continuously. Now we come to us, the tattoo and the piercings. Our industry has been ignored for years, only now have they realized that tattoos are on a huge part of the population, around 100 million people across Europe. Tattooed people are everywhere.

What do we have to do with the pandémia? Much, perhaps too much. We are a cross between an artist and something that has medical, we are a strange job. We who, even before the pandemic, lived with the awareness of cross contamination to be avoided every day. Our work is in an institutional fog, perhaps this is even more absurd. The population understood better than those who govern us that we are not a worker but a real profession precisely because our business affects people's health, even psychological.

I have great faith in the health protocol we have worked out with the government virology team. What worries me is actually that now we open with a greater number of infections than when we closed. It's not in our Shops that the people take risks but out there, metropolitan transport, untested schools, travel without quarantine between adjacent nations, slowed vaccination etc. But even after all the biggest problem is talking with some institutions. We are bound by law to the ministry of health and we tried to open a dialog with for one year. Attention they talk with us, one time in call video and we feel a very "cold atmosphere" . We know that they overworking but we also do the same and we are citizens, we do also to help them, without being paid just to make citizens useful to the community.

How is it possible that our association informed the Minister of Health that the pigments had been banned and they don't know? They not "interested" in knowing what's happening now?

Plus checks on illegal tattoo artists... Belgium is the most important place to illegals tattoo artists comes from all over Europe to work without our hygiene training (and maybe also without pay taxes?... ).

How is it possible that the ministry of health doesn't have a answer or solution or opinion to talk with us?

Isn't it a scandal that not only are we closed, we have enormous economic problems but are also victims of continuous and uninterrupted fraud? And all this without talking about public health, they are tattooers who come from everywhere we don't know who they are and what they really do, what we can do with infections and Covid-19?

How do you can verify my words?

Simple, they are visible on Facebook and Instagram in Belgium, like legals tattooist but they are illegals. They make appointments, takes photos, fill the agenda, pay the sponsoring of Facebook and also tattoo in streaming. They know that we are in trouble because the crisis is crushing us and we are neglected. They understand that the controls are in "troubles" or vacant and the customers don't know how they can understand who are legal and who are not legal. Social networks don't exist when the government wrote the law 15 years ago.

May our openness be an opportunity for those who have the power to do, they will begin to control even all the illegals, and not only honest citizens workers who follow the belgians laws.

We continue to tell everyone to respect the laws, help us to make ourselves heard by colleagues who ask for more protection and listening.

The preface that I wrote of the difficulty of the current situation is to get here, we are in danger, because the law that regulates us is from 2005, it has enormous gaps, too risky in this pandemic, we need to work to change it soon as possible.

We need someone who can check at the same time, the certificate of hygiene, the company number, the right to work or live in Belgium, etc. all the documents in one time. The illegal tattooist work for a few days regularly, every month, and they go away, there are no possibilities to stop it effectually with the actual system. For the customers is an enormous risk, they don't have idea of what happen and they can take a seriously possibilities of infections or covid-19. Customers need to be protected and work only with légal professionals tattooist.

We follow the rules, open and close as you see fit, we never refuse to talk. We are not politicians, it's not our job, but we know that we need a real plan to survive. In this moment, not only open and after close again. We are there to talk because the air is stale and we need to give our "trésoreries" the possibility to recover and we need to restore the legality and strong controls in our job.

The big independents trade unions help us, the spf economics makes also efforts, some ministries too, because we trust in positive approach. We have been here for one year, many steps have been taken by all, we are waiting for one big absentee, the head of our sector, the ministry of health. We ask to help us to stop the vertical fall crisis in our sector who is already underway and for which legally tattooers are disadvantaged and are starting to closing.

Videant consules (ne quid res publica detrimenti capiat)

Best regards

Bruno Menei

Chairman ATB

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