Many prison workers across Europe are facing longstanding problems of understaffing, overcrowding and, as a result, significantly increased risks of violence. These were common to three country case studies carried out for EPSU by researchers at the HIVA research unit at Leuven University. In the UK, Italy and Greece the situation of prison workers had deteriorated in recent years with the prison service in Greece in particular having faced the deep cuts to funding and workers' pay imposed across the whole of the public sector. While Sweden presented a contrasting case study, the evidence was that the system was being put under pressure as new public management methods were leading to more administrative work for staff and less direct contact with inmates. The approach to the penal system was also changing with a shift to a harsher societal climate looking more to punishment than rehabilitation of prisoners. Further work would be carried out on the case studies in response to comments from EPSU affiliates. Nadja Salson responded to the debate and indicated the key issues to be addressed by the EPSU prison network.
The quality of employment in prison services
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(May 2017) Trade unions representing prison workers across Europe met in Brussels on 10 May to discuss a range of issues relating to continuing austerity, collective bargaining and trade union rights. Key issues that emerged during the meeting included the increase in violence against prison staff, problems of understaffing and developing issues around digitalisation and, in some countries, radicalisation of inmates. The meeting was part of a two-year project run by EPSU with the next meeting in December focusing on childcare workers.
The ACAIP-UGT, CCOO, CIG y CSIF trade unions representing prison staff have met with the interior minister and head of the prison service to discuss progress with legislation foreseen for 2021. The new law should include several key demands that unions have been campaigning for in recent years. These include a reform of the prison system and harmonisation of jobs across the sector, along with a reclassification of certain posts in the public sector pay structure to reflect the complexity of tasks in prison staff occupations.