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Prison officer walkouts amid fears of impact of cuts

Police Officers Association rejects 'unlawful industrial action' tag and says prison service is in 'perpetual crisis'

Prison officers across England and Wales have staged unofficial walkouts in protest at alleged lack of consultation over how prisoners are supervised.

Staff gathered outside jails in England and Wales between 8am and 9am on Friday to hold meetings described by senior management as “unlawful industrial action” – a description rejected by the Police Officers’ Association (POA).

In a letter published by the POA on its website, National Chairman Mike Rolfe and General Secretary Steve Gillan said the prison service had been in “perpetual crisis for a long period of time” and that budget cuts had caused drastic reductions in staffing, making workplaces unsafe.

Last year there were nearly 5,000 assaults on staff - a jump of more than a third compared with 2014.

Shadow prisons minister Jo Stevens said: "Any sensible employer undertaking major changes in the workplace would actively engage with their workforce right at the start, so those changes have the best chance of success.

"Our prisons are overcrowded, understaffed and violence against prison officers is at record levels. Prison officers rightly feel aggrieved about the lack of consultation with them."

A spokesman for the Prison Service said: "This morning's unlawful industrial action lasted an hour or less at most prisons.

"All staff have now resumed normal working. An appropriate level of security was in place across the prison estate at all times.

"Strike action is unlawful for prison officers. We are in regular contact with unions and are continuing discussions to address any concerns they have.

"The safety and security of our prisons is a top priority and well-established plans are in place to respond to action and maintain stable regimes."