FURIOUS prison officers urged their colleagues to reject a £50 million bribe from Justice Secretary Jack Straw on Thursday which they warned would lead to job cuts and downgrading of work.
At a special delegate’s conference, members from every public-sector prison in England and Wales gathered to consider an offer from Mr Straw to modernise the Prison Service.
The offer contains a three-year pay deal which purports to give some staff a 51 per cent pay increase over three years.
The “workforce modernisation” (WFM) plan is to be financed by £50 million given to Mr Straw by the Treasury last year. However, the Prison Officers Association (POA) warned that this up-front funding has to be clawed back by management over its three-year lifespan or the Chancellor will demand it back.
The union said that WFM is about doing more for less and is designed to slow down the pay bill, justify job losses and downgrade work to its cheapest level.
Another part of the deal will see warders and other prison workers having allowances taken away and forced to take regular fitness tests, which the union explained is just a back-door way to sack long-serving staff.
POA national chairman Colin Moses noted that the Prison Service sold off all its assets many years ago and they now have nothing to offer.
“Therefore, they are using the welfare and safety of prisoners, staff and the general public as bargaining chips in an attempt to shore up the economy.
“The so-called 50 per cent pay offer or 10 per cent over three years is pure spin. The majority of the pay increases are already built into staff’s terms and conditions.
“As a union, we are shackled by anti-trade union legislation introduced by the Conservative government, legislation which limits the right of my members and my union and every worker’s right to free collective bargaining.
“We will not sell off the safety and welfare of prisoners, staff and the general public for 30 pieces of silver.”
General secretary Brian Caton added that National Offender Management Service bosses and the government are hell-bent on using public services to balance the books of the economy.
“In the good times, they ignore public-sector workers and feather the nests of the private sector,” he said.
“In the bad times, they attack all essential services in an attempt to cover up the black holes of Treasury, all at the expense of the public and the worker.
“POA members want a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. We want prisons to be fit for purpose and not warehouses.
“We demand safe prisons that have adequate professional staff to serve the public. It appears that the government are happy to attack our workers, accept violence as part of everyday life in prisons and play Russian roulette with public safety.”