Prison staff strike halted af­ter ‘mean­ing­ful’ talks

Yorkshire Post - - NEWS -

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.

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