Prison staff strike halted after ‘meaningful’ talks
CONCERNS OVER prison violence that sparked a mass walkout by officers have been recognised by the Government as “justified”, their union said.
Members of the POA, the trade union for prison staff, were told to return to work by 1pm yesterday, following “meaningful engagement” with prisons minister Rory Stewart.
Mr Stewart “recognised that our concerns are justified and need addressing” following Friday’s protest, General secretary Steve Gillan said. He said he was “confident a deal is a deal” after the prison service “backed down” over seeking an injunction against the demonstrators.
They have been demonstrating outside prisons in England and Wales from 7am yesterday over “unprecedented” levels of violence and safety concerns.
But Justice Secretary David Gauke branded Friday’s action “wrong” and “irresponsible”, adding that it “does nothing” to help reduce levels of violence.
He said: “I agree with those who say that the level of violence is unacceptably high and we are determined to bring it down.
“But I think action of this sort does nothing to help that process, and locking prisoners up for 24 hours a day, which may be the consequence of what the POA are doing, only increases the risk of violence. “It doesn’t help us address it.” The industrial action also had knock-on effects on court cases, as some defendants in custody could not be transported to hearings.
The union will meet with the prison service on Monday, Mr Gillan said.
He said the Justice Secretary risked “inflaming” the situation after an agreement had been reached.
Mr Gillan added: “The protest can’t have made things worse because his minister has recognised that our concerns are justified and need addressing. That’s why we called the protests off.”
Union officials had talks with the Minister.