(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.
Central government, Firefighters, Prisons Services
(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.
(July 2017) Seventeen health sector unions have come together to condemn the government's decision to impose the 1% pay gap for another year. Meanwhile, the firefighters' union has rejected a pay offer of 2% this year and 3% in 2018, saying that it fails to take account of the increasing workloads facing firefighters and workers at the Bank of England could go on strike for the first time in over 50 years unless the employer comes up with a better pay offer by the end of the month.
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.
At least 17 public sector unions are planning to take part in a one-day strike on 24 January to demand an end to austerity and to the retention of the single pay system for all public sector workers. The unions are concerned about pay deals with doctors, public sector directors and senior managers in the state holding company that call into question the single pay structure in the public sector. In the meantime, the firefighters' union has called off action planned for 10 January following government agreement to regrading of 14 posts within the fire service.
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
The CSC/ACV and CGSP/ACOD unions representing prison workers have taken strike action in protest at government plans to legislate on limiting their right to strike. EPSU sent a solidarity message to the unions highlighting the deteriorating conditions and overcrowding in prisons across the country and the importance of having the right to strike to highlight the need for urgent action to address these problems and reverse the impact of austerity. Rather than attack trade union rights, EPSU argues that the federal government should open negotiations to tackle the critical situation facing the
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