Government takes POA to court to force prison officers back to work after assault

POA leaders today appear in court as the government attempts to force prison officers to return to work in dangerous working conditions.

A prison officer was last week hospitalised after being strangled unconscious at HMP Lindholme while, in a separate incident, another officer was punched in the throat. The POA says these assaults breach their members’ rights under health & safety legislation.

POA general secretary Steve Gillan stormed: “These were serious assaults against prison officers. The POA has no argument with the courts and its judgements, but the government and HMPPS need to deal with the serious violence in our prisons before we are talking about an officer being murdered.
“We will sit down and negotiate but we will not sell our members’ health and safety. The courts cannot remedy the violence in our prisons – only the government and HMPPS can do this, with the POA at the heart of those discussions and solutions.”
POA national chair Mark Fairhurst added: “We are disappointed that the employer is more concerned with running the union into court instead of actually sitting down with us and addressing the safety issues that staff at Lindholme face. The safety of our members is non-negotiable and we will always defend the basic human rights of POA members to work in a safe environment.”
The POA is being backed by a cross-party group of MPs and peers and fellow justice-sector trade unions who have warned the government not to bully prison officers into accepting dangerous working conditions.
The Justice Unions & Family Courts Parliamentary Group called on the Ministry of Justice to drop today’s scheduled High Court action, warning that officers would resist “any attempt to normalise the extreme violence they face every day at work”.
JUFCPG co-chairs Liz Saville Roberts, Plaid Cymru MP for Dwyfor Meirionnydd, and Labour Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede have written to Justice Secretary David Gauke insisting that “inadequate staffing levels and overcrowding have helped fuel a dramatic escalation of violence in HMP Lindholme and across the prison estate – yet with this legal action it appears that your Department and HMPPS are trying to deny prison officers their basic Health & Safety rights”.
The Parliamentarians added: “These brave public servants will not be bullied into submission”, and questioned why the Ministry “has not yet made a statement regarding the serious assaults at HMP Lindholme on the night of Thursday 11 October, which saw an officer hospitalised after being strangled unconscious”.
Probation union Napo expressed solidarity with the prison officers, with general secretary Ian Lawrence saying: “Prisons must provide adequate standards of safety for staff and those whom they supervise. How does this government expect more probation officers to undertake their work in the prison estate when such a basic requirement cannot be met? The POA are standing up for their members – and we fully support their struggle.”
Labour’s shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon also backed the POA, tweeting: “The situation at HMP Lindholme shows the urgent need for the government to get round the table with the POA and work together to make prisons safe. They should be working with – not against – our prison officers because it’s them – not politicians – who are on the front line.”
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4 thoughts on “Government takes POA to court to force prison officers back to work after assault

  1. prison officers do a remarkable public service in a climate of extreme danger,the government’s austerity programme has hit the prison service extremely hard. Those hard pressed men and women are given scant regard when it comes to the provision of a safe environment in which to work. Rather than being given support they are being punished,driven into court by those who are protected by them.A shame and a scandal ,the profession is a tough one even at the best of times.

  2. It’s absolutely ridiculous to expect staff to go back into work without being put in a safe working environment. Anybody who does the job as a prison officer accepts there is some levels of danger doing the job however the government have a responsibility to make the job as safe as possible and when a member of staff is assaulted to give them the full support and full backing for their recovery.

  3. These Officers would have a number of good reasons to go to Tribunal. Where in their contract does it say they should put their lives at risk for a start?

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