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6 September 2007

Prison Officers' strike


A SEA of shining white shirts greeted me as I walked up to the picket line at HMP Brixton, bringing solidarity from my local Unison branch.

Around 80 prison officers were outside the prison. One of their reps, Kev, informed me that every public prison in the country was affected and the strike was incredibly solid across the board. Their staff had had pay rises below inflation for so many years that they felt they had no choice but to make a stand.

Officers told me that they had received a lot of local support as many prisoners they work with are local and have families living locally, that most inmates were naturally sympathetic and understood the reasons for the dispute.

Reps told me that even the police told them they were sympathetic as they may soon be in a pay dispute with their employers themselves!

This action seems light years ahead of most other union initiatives on pay. Local government workers have been offered the same derisory 2.5% as the prison officers. Our leaders in Unison and other local authority unions should take a leaf out of the book of the Prison Officers Association (POA) and not dither around with endless 'consultative ballots'.

Determined cross-union action is the only way to win and the prison officers' strike shows the mood is there and the time is right.

Andy Tullis, Lambeth Unison, personal capacity

STOP PRESS UNISON'S LOCAL government national joint negotiating committee has voted 24:4 to hold a strike ballot in October with a view to a two-day strike in mid-November against the latest derisory local government pay offer. The successful resolution was moved by Unison NEC member and Socialist Party member Glenn Kelly.


GRAHAM DALE, the POA secretary at Cardiff Prison spoke to DAVE REID of the socialist.

"We had a 99% turnout in the action. We are fed up with the level of pay and we want our full union rights back. The government offered us a 2.5% pay increase staged with 1.5% in April and 1% to be paid in November, which is below the rate of inflation.

"Our pay has fallen behind other workers. It would be good if we could get a national strike of all public sector workers."