Doug Beattie MC MLA, the Ulster Unionist Party’s Justice spokesperson, has described the news that Northern Ireland’s Prison Officers are to ballot on industrial action as the regrettable but inevitable result of how staff have been treated.
Doug Beattie MC said:
“The news that local Prison Officers are to be balloted on Industrial action, up to and including strike action, on Monday 15 November, is further evidence of the crisis which exists within our prison system in terms of how the staff have been treated and the low morale that exists.”
“Terms and conditions that were first agreed in 2014 as part of the ‘Staff Deployment Agreement’ have not been implemented. Inadequate staffing levels inside prisons are contributing to the already unacceptably high levels of stress which are being placed on officers and it is clear to me that many of them are extremely frustrated at the lack of support and understanding which they are receiving from the powers that be.
“A recent response from the Justice Minster when asked when the Prison Service 2016 pay award would be finalised, left me with no confidence that the Prison Officers Association and Prison Service Management Board requests are being taken seriously. It is not good enough to say talks with the Finance Mister are continuing in respect to the 2016 pay award, eleven months after they started and on the cusp of negotiations beginning for 2017.
“With Christmas just over six weeks away, Prison Officers are like anyone else, and have no desire to lose money as the result of industrial action. The very fact they are being balloted should leave the Prison authorities and Justice Minister in no doubt as to the seriousness of the situation.”