Ahead of the proposed industrial action by prison officers this Wednesday, March 11, Senator John Whelan has asked the Irish Prison Service to “call off the attack dogs” who are putting prison officers’ safety at risk.
Speaking in the Senate recently, the Laois Labour senator said that prison officers are being backed into a corner and have no option but to take a stand and ballot for industrial action.
“It is hard to distinguish in the prison system between who is serving the community, serving the country and serving time,” he said. “Prison officers believe their health, safety and well-being are being put at risk by attempts to unilaterally introduce new work practices and changes without proper recourse to negotiation and reasonable, meaningful consultation.”
He called on the Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald to intervene in the dispute between the Irish Prison Service (IPS) and the Prison Officers Association (POA), saying that all it requires is common sense and fair play to acknowledge and accept that the prison officers are involved daily in “a very attritional, dangerous, difficult and challenging work environment”.
He urged her to hold a direct meeting with the POA at the earliest opportunity.
In response, Minister Fitzgerald said: “I have discussed this matter with management and IPS management is fully committed to ensuring that staff have a safe and dignified environment in which to work in order to carry out their important duties.”
Minister Fitzgerald acknowledged the achievements made by the strategic plan of the Irish Prison Service, but said that significant savings and reforms have yet to be achieved to ensure that the sector delivers on its commitments.