Friday 23 December 2016

Prison Officers Reject New Payment Scheme And Pensions Deal


Prison officers have “overwhelmingly” rejected an improved pay and pensions deal in a new blow to the government trying to tackle the crisis in our jails.

Their union, the Prison Officers’ Association (POA) endorsed the package, which included a reduction in the retirement age of up to three years.

The POA urged the government to return to the negotiating table to address “issues of concern” just a week after a 12-hour riot at Birmingham prison - described by the union as the worst since Strangeways jail riot in Manchester 26 years ago.

Steve Gillan, POA general secretary, said: “In the ballot return 65.7% of our members rejected their offer, with 33.7% in favour along with 0.6% spoilt votes. I urge Government not to ignore the views of our members.”

Some 10,000 prison officers in England and Wales protested last month over claims of a “surge” in jail violence but returned to work after a High Court injunction ordered them to end their 24-hour protest.

Prison officers have claimed the system is in “meltdown” the the rebuffed offer is a new headache for Justice Secretary Liz Truss.

A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said: “Progress has been made on health and safety grounds and we will continue to hold talks with the POA.

“The Justice Secretary intends to meet with the leadership in the new year. As the Justice Secretary has made clear, she has huge respect for prison officers and is committed to making prisons places of safety and reform.”

Under the proposals, prison officers were to be allowed to retire at 65 - even when the state pension age rises to 68, at no cost to them and with full pension benefits.

They also stood to receive a “recognition and retention” package totalling £1,000.

Ms Truss has announced a wide-ranging package of reforms to address the issues, including a recruitment drive to add 2,500 staff and mandatory drug testing across the estate after three serious prison disturbances in less than two months.

Earlier two former home secretaries and an ex-deputy prime minister called for the number of prisoners in England and Wales to be cut by almost a half.

Ken Clarke, Jacqui Smith and Nick Clegg urged the Government to curb the “escalating prison population” said it should be cut by 40,000 as it had gone beyond what was “safe or sustainable.”

In a letter to The Times they say that almost half of adults are re-convicted within a year of release from prison, showing that the system was not serving victims of crime or properly protecting communities.



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