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Prison officers go on strike in protest at staff shortages

21:36 04/02/2018

Guards at prisons across Belgium staged a 32-hour strike in protest at the staff shortages in prisons.

An estimated 70% of prison officers did not show up for their shift on Friday morning, with some 90% of prison staff striking in Bruges and Leuven, according to figures from the federal police. The strike ran until 6.00 on Saturday morning.

The strike follows on promises made by federal justice minister Koen Geens after the last strike by prison officers in May of 2016, after which Geens promised to hire more guards to address the severe labour shortages that have been an issue of concern for years.

Police officers were drafted in to reinforce staff. Justice minister Koen Geens told Radio 1 that he understood the guards' impatience, but pointed out that additional officers were being hired. "Things all went a bit too slowly in the second half of last year," he said. "But the budget is now available. We are going to catch up as quickly as possible."

Geens also pointed out that 700 new guards have been hired since 2016.

Photo: Protesting officers outside the prison of Leuven during the May 2016 strike © Belga/ Eric Lalmand.

Written by Linda A Thompson