Correctional Officers will march off the job at 3:00pm to hold a stop work meeting as the start of rolling industrial actions in the Tasmanian Prison Service to demand safer conditions for staff and inmates and suitable wages.
Correctional Officers have rejected the Hodgman Government’s insulting pay offer* and the continued lack of action on understaffing and working conditions.
They also condemn the Hodgman Government’s plans to introduce a lower paid level of worker into the prison system and deskill the workforce. This underhand move is a blatant attempt to force Correctional Officers to back down on their fight for a fair pay rise and improved working conditions, and is a law and order issue – lower qualified workers would not be trained in use of force and unable to restrain a prisoner in the event of an assault or an escape.
Correctional Officers walked off the job in June. Since then the Government has not come back to the table with an adequate wages offer or a serious commitment to deal with understaffing and significant workplace health and safety issues.
Jannette Armstrong, United Workers Union Tasmanian spokesperson says, “The Hodgman Government must fund a professional wage increase for Tasmania’s experienced Correctional Officers, an increase that also reflects the increasing demands on officers. We want a commitment from the Government to invest in current and future employees now.
“We outright reject the attempt to replace experienced Correctional Officers with inexperienced, lower qualified positions that would be unable to use appropriate interventions on prisoners. To think that the Government believes the growing list of issues at Risdon Prison will be solved by bringing in lower skilled and lower paid workers just beggars belief.
“Correctional Officers are working in a system that is straining, just this year there lockdown hours have increased by 200 000. Lockdowns make getting prisoners to programs and appointments incredibly difficult and creates significantly more workload for staff. No one wants the lockdowns to continue.
“Officers will start the roll out of industrial action this afternoon, this will keep escalating until the Hodgman Government takes these issues seriously and comes back to Correctional Officers with a fair wage rise and a commitment to improving working conditions.”
Philip Pregnell, United Workers Union delegate and Correctional Supervisor says, “Correctional Officers feel disrespected and undervalued for their contribution to the safe housing and rehabilitation of offenders.
“Instead of negotiating a deal that values the work of officers in the current trying conditions, this Government proposes to deskill the workforce with lower qualified staff.
“We’re taking action because the Hodgman Government are putting the community at risk. Correctional Officers are burning out and getting injured at extraordinary rates. Inmates are leaving prison worse off than when they came in with little scope for rehabilitation. We want to work in a system that leads to good outcomes for our community. Every Tasmanian should feel let down by the Hodgman Government.
“Correctional Officers are under so much pressure, we are rapidly approaching our breaking point.”
Actions will continue to be rolled out until the Hodgman Government negotiates an increased wage rise and improved working conditions in good faith. From today Correctional Officers will no longer be bowing to pressure to cut corners just to keep the prison running. Correctional Officers will ‘work to rule’ on security checks on people and vehicles entering and exiting the prison. Due to chronic understaffing, it is expected that this will delay transfers and the timing of court arrivals, and further increase lockdowns.