Ministry of Justice seeks injunction to force prison officers back to work

POA members protest at HMP Wandsworth

The Ministry of Justice is seeking an injunction to force prison officers back to work.

Thousands of  POA members across the UK this morning walked out of work in protest at the level of violence in prisons. The union says it is taking action to protect the safety of its members, who will stay out until it is safe to return.

The move comes following a letter from Chief Inspector of Prisons Peter Clarke to the Secretary of State issuing an Urgent Notification Notice at HMP Bedford following a catalogue of failure.

Speaking exclusively to union-news.co.uk, POA general secretary Steve Gillan said: “I have instructed all POA members to take protest action from 7am to demonstrate against the horrendous violence in the workplace.

“These health and safety measures will last in England and Wales until further direction from me.”

 

Confirming the Ministry of Justice is seeking an injunction to bring the action to an end, Prisons Minister Rory Stewart said: “Prison officers do vital and important work and we urge them to return to their duty stations, in line with their obligations to the law and the prison service.

“It’s irresponsible for the POA to encourage their members to take this unlawful action. We are deploying our contingency plans but, by not turning up for work, these prison officers are putting their fellow staff and inmates at risk.

“Yesterday we doubled the prison sentence for anyone who assaults prison officers. We’ve also increased pay, provided tools such as body-worn cameras to increase security on the landings, and are investing £40 million to improve the estate and tackle the drugs problem which is fuelling much of the violence. And we’ve now got 3,500 new officers to help ease the burden.

“We are taking the action that needs to be taken.”

The POA has for years raised concerns about the unprecedented levels of violence in prisons, and the failure of the government and employer to provide safe prisons. The rise in violence against staff in prisons has been laid firmly at the feet of government and HMPPS, who have overseen the demise of the prison service over the last eight years.

Steve Gillan said: “The POA has engaged with the employer and ministers in an attempt to resolve issues, but they are paying lip service to the health & safety of my members their human rights, that of other workers in prisons and of course the prisoners in our care.”

“Earlier this year the POA commenced legal proceedings due to the government’s failure to provide safe prisons. Bedford with other prisons was placed into special measures and commitments made to this union from government and HMPPS. These commitments were not met and we have issued a further Pre-Action Protocol Letter as part of the Judicial Review process because of their failings to provide safe prisons.”

“We will now be demanding that the government provide safe prisons, meet our demands to improve Personal Protective Equipment, reduce levels of violence and overcrowding as set out by Lord Justice Woolf in his report into the riots of 1990.”

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