“Enough is enough” – angry prison officers march on Westminster

Hundreds of prison officers are today marching through Westminster demanding action against soaring levels of violence, an end to private prisons, and a fair retirement age of 60.

Setting off from the Trafalgar Square end of Whitehall at 11am, POA members and supporters will rally at Methodist Central Hall will hear from fellow trade unionists and MPs from across the political parties, introduced by POA national chair Mark Fairhurst.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell and Shadow Justice Secretary Richard Burgon are the headline speakers. They will be joined by party colleagues Ian Lavery, Jo Stevens, Laura Pidcock, Imran Hussain, Mary Glindon and more, alongside the SNP’s Chris Stephens and Plaid Cymru Westminster leader Liz Saville Roberts.

ASLEF general secretary Mick Whelan is also speaking, along with PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka and, union-news-co.uk understands, FBU general secretary Matt Wrack.

Following the last-minute suspension of a planned strike by PCS members working as security guards in Parliament, POA members will now lobby their MPs in the Palace of Westminster after the rally. If the PCS action had gone ahead, they would have lobbied outside the Parliamentary estate in solidarity.

POA general secretary Steve Gillan said: “We may be banned by law from taking any kind of industrial action, but they can’t take away our right to protest.

“We are here in Westminster to hold the government to account for causing this prisons crisis. My members face record levels of violence – day in, day out – simply for doing their job. This is a health and safety emergency, and the government must immediately return the money it stole from the prison service in the discredited name of austerity.

“New private prisons are not the answer – with their record of overcrowding, understaffing, more violence and worse terms and conditions than at public prisons. The government must end its ideological obsession with running prisons for profit.

And we demand our cruelly high retirement age is brought back down to 60. Across Parliament, Politicians agree that 68 is too late! We ask all MPs, how many people do you know who could perform the physically demanding and extreme role of a front-line Prison Officer until the age of 68?”.

POA national chair Mark Fairhurst added: “I am proud to represent POA members who serve the public in all secure environments and wish to express my sincere thanks to them for the dedicated, professional and dangerous work they perform in the most hostile and violent workplace in Western Europe.

“Expecting prison officers to work at the front line until they are 68 is cruel. We are a front-line uniformed service, essential to the public, and we deserve to be treated in the same category as firefighters and the police.

“We deal with violence and emergencies daily. We cannot be expected, either physically or mentally, to continue working in this environment in our sixties.”

union-news.co.uk will be live tweeting the rally. Follow us at @Union_NewsUK

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