(October 2016) The SNLP union representing prison staff has been organising a series of protests over serious staffing shortages and very high levels of uncompensated overtime. The prison service needs around 8000 extra staff and the union warns that this not only raises serious health and safety issues but undermines attempts at rehabilitation.
Digitalisation, Central government, Embassy and household staff, Prisons Services, Economic Policy
(December 2016) Prison staff, members of the FP-CGIL and UIL-PA federations, took part in a national demonstration on 29 November in protest at serious understaffing and assaults on staff. The unions argue that urgent action is needed to deal with dilapidated prisons and the long working hours and stress that are leading to sickness absence and additional pressures of work. They say that problems have been building up for years with cutbacks and lack of investment.
(March 2017) The three main confederations - CGIL, CISL and UIL - have negotiated a new labour agreement that covers employees of embassies, consulates, legations, cultural institutes and other international organisations in Italy. The agreement runs for three years (2017-2019) and includes a 3.6% pay increase as well as a new mandatory payment by employers to the FIS Fund which provides benefits in the case of losing a job or having a cut in hours.
(June 2017) Embassy, tourist office and other international staff around the world are taking strike action to secure pay rises and end a long-term pay freeze that has seen wages in some countries fall to below national minima. Unions are looking for a 20% pay increase, arguing that in some countries inflation has meant a 40% loss of purchasing power for some workers. Action has taken place or is planned in several countries including Canada, Sweden, the United States and Argentina.
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.
The FSC-CCOO and FeSP-UGT public service federations have called a strike on 16 October involving workers in the government's overseas services. The strike is in protest at the freezing of salaries for the 7000 workers in the service and increasingly precarious employment conditions. The unions say that the strike is necessary as there has been no response to their demands since a meeting a meeting in June and despite a number of other protests and actions so far in 2017.
Prison staff unions in Belgium, France and Spain have been taking or are planning industrial action or demonstrations over staffing and pay. In France, the unions have raised concerns about prison overcrowding, violence against staff, the need for a significant increase in prison officer numbers and improvements to pay and conditions. After failing to get a satisfactory response from the justice ministry, the unions are calling for an extension of the action across the country. In Belgium, the issue is the failure of the government to adhere to a 2016 agreement on staffing levels and further
Following a meeting with the justice minister, the prisons section of the GÖD public service union has announced that the government is committed to create 75 new jobs and 100 training places to tackle the excessive workloads faced across the prison service. The talks also discussed the prospects for a quicker and more effective process for appointing prison staff and a plan for an expert study of the sector that would assist in drawing up standard safety guidelines.
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.
The FNV trade union for prison staff has called for an urgent meeting with prison service management to discuss the implications of a new report on staffing, safety and treatment of inmates. The union believes that the report, "Out of Balance", by the Justice and Security Inspectorate provides further evidence of its concerns over excessive workloads and inadequately trained staff. The union now wants the prison service to discuss permanent measures to tackle these problems building on the temporary arrangements that were agreed last year by the justice department and central works council.
The three main prison officer unions - FSC-CCOO, FeSPUGT and ACAIP - organised a 15-minute stoppage in 84 institutions across the country on 22 May in protest at the violence used against demonstrating prison guards earlier in the month. The three unions had coordinated a series of protests across the country to call for negotiations over pay and working conditions. The demonstrations were carried out peacefully but in Morón in southern Spain police used violence to break up the protest resulting in 20 injuries, including one very serious.
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
Trade unions in the prisons sector in Spain - CCOO, UGT and Acaip-Uso - have been running a major campaign of mobilisation to put pressure on prison service management to negotiate to tackle major problems related to pay, understaffing, an ageing workforce and increased violence. However, some of their recent peaceful protests have been broken up by the police even causing injuries, in some cases serious, to union activists (see epsucob@NEWS 11). In a presentation to EPSU's Quality Employment conference, Jose Maria Lopez of CCOO, outlined the situation facing prison service workers, arguing