Prison officers vote to strike

Thousands of Prison Officers’ Association members in England and Wales, including those working in young offender institutions, have voted to strike in protest at government “interference” in their pay and negotiating rights.

In workplace ballot results announced yesterday, 15,015 POA members voted in favour of strike action, with just 2,504 against.

POA general secretary Brian Caton said its members were “infuriated” by a pay rise of 1.6 per cent awarded in April and accused the Prison Service of trying to influence the independence of the pay review body.

He said: “The Prison Service and the government have consistently sought to undermine our ability to operate a free trade union, but I hope this vote will send a message that we will not tolerate such interference. Prison officers need to be paid appropriately for the difficult job they do.”

Caton said he was seeking talks with home secretary John Reid and prisons minister Gerry Sutcliffe, but warned that strike action could begin within a fortnight if discussions were not successful.

A Prison Service spokesperson said the POA was in breach of a legally binding agreement not to take industrial action, which it had jointly signed with the Prison Service, and that the Prison Service would take legal action “if necessary”.

She also said Sutcliffe had written to the POA asking it to outline areas for discussion to ensure he would be fully briefed before a meeting.

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