Prison Officers at every prison in England and Wales walked out on Friday despite ministers claiming their action was unlawful.
The Prison Officers’ Association (POA) instructed members across the country to hold meetings outside their establishments’ gates on Friday morning as they criticised the Tory government over “increasing violence, challenging working environments and destructive budget cuts.”
They said that Justice Secretary Michael Gove’s decision to force through changes to the supervision regime without consultation was the immediate trigger to their action.
In a message to officers, POA general secretary Steve Gillan and national chairman Mike Rolfe said Mr Gove was trying to “break up” prisons into a system “that models itself on academy schools and foundation hospitals,” leading to an attack on workers’ rights.
“The pain and suffering of our members and the prisoners in our charge will continue until this union and its members are properly listened to,” the pair wrote.
“We will make no apology for asking members to call these meetings and the impact on regimes that this may bring. Our message to the employer will be that this is the start of things to come if you fail to listen, fail to respond and fail to act on our concerns.”
The national walkout follows similar actions at five prisons affected by overcrowding in recent months — with staff citing safety concerns.
A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman 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.”