Prison officers go on strike in protest at staff shortages


Guards at prisons across Flanders stopped working on Thursday evening in protest at the staff shortages that have been a persistent issue of concern in recent years

32-hour strike

Guards at prisons across the region began a 32-hour strike yesterday evening 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 is expected to run 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 this morning, with 81 police officers being sent to the 16 prisons across the region.

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