Prison workers' unions have organised half-hour protests across the prisons service on 2 August as part of their long-running campaign to get action to tackle violence against staff. With 934 violent assaults registered in 2015 and 2016, the unions say that urgent action is required and they want the new government to recognise the problem and to negotiate an agreement to address it. Inadequate staffing levels are a major element and the unions say the recent offer of additional employment is inadequate to deal with the estimated 3400 vacancies or the ageing of the workforce. However, the unions also point to other challenges such as the need to tackle mental health problems in prisons.
Prison unions demand action over violence
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The FP CGIL public services federation is calling for urgent action to tackle increasing violence against staff as well as staff suicides in the prison service. Thirty-five staff have committed suicide over the last five years with 2250 violent incidents recorded over the same period. The increase in violence is reflected in the number of incidents rising from 344 in 2013 to 590 in 2017. The union has criticised the prison service management for failing to engage to tackle the issue with its sole main response being to establish a helpline for staff. The union wants to see a range of measures
The three main trade unions in the prisons sector - FSC-CCOO, FeSP-UGT and ACAIP - organised a 12-hour protest outside the head office of the prison service on 11 April. Over 200 trade unionists joined the demonstration, chaining themselves together. The unions are calling for proper negotiations to resolve some major problems in the sector including: massive staff shortages with 3200 vacant posts; the ageing workforce; privatisation; increasing violence and discrepancies in pay between the same jobs in different institutions.
Reacting to a recent report on increased violence in prisons, the FNV trade union has called for increased investment in prison staff to be made a political priority. Official figures show that violent incidents against staff rose to an average of four and a half a day in 2015 and then five a day in 2016. This, along with evidence of widespread drug abuse in prisons, has been taken up by the FNV as well as as the central works council of the justice ministry.