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Shortage of operators at emergency call centres in Brussels and Antwerp

An emergency services phone operator at work (BELGA)
11:15 13/10/2020

The ACV public services union has called for a meeting with interior minister Annelies Verlinden about the shortage of telephone operators at the "101" police emergency response stations in Antwerp and Brussels. These shortages amount to a deficit of 40%, according to union representative John Pollet.

In the province of Antwerp, only 35 people are employed as emergency response operators, whereas it should be 45 if all positions required were full. The deficit in Brussels is even greater than in Antwerp. According to the union, which is proposing an awareness campaign in an attempt to recruit more staff, this is a deficit of 40%.

“People who call sometimes have to wait several minutes for their emergency call to be taken care of,” Pollet said. "Furthermore, due to the lack of staff, the workload of the operators is extremely high, which means that more and more employees are side-lined due to illness." The union has called for a meeting with Minister Verlinden “because the situation is untenable.”

It is not entirely clear why there is so little interest in training as a telephone operator at an emergency centre. “In Brussels it may be the bilingualism required,” says John Pollet. “In Antwerp there is also work in the city’s port for operators with the necessary profiles.”