‘PAY UP OR WE STRIKE AGAIN’ – says POA

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‘If tomorrow’s talks are not fruitful, we can’t rule out taking strike action again,’ Prison Officers Association spokesman Glyn Travis said yesterday.

Today’s talks with the Justice Ministry come after the government held off from serving Wednesday’s High Court injunction on the union, which called off its 24 hour action after 12 hours in return for talks.

Travis told News Line: ‘The injunction hasn’t been taken any further. They haven’t taken us to court again.’

A justice ministry spokeswoman confirmed that no prison officer faced penalties for staying out on strike after the injunction was announced, saying ‘that would be petty, they’re back at work now and that’s fine’.

Faced with mounting anger over his pay-cutting two per cent limit on public sector pay, prime minister Brown said yesterday that economic discipline will ‘have to continue’.

He claimed: ‘The staging of the pay awards are an essential part of controlling inflation in the economy, keeping interest rates and mortgage rates low for home owners and making sure that we have stability so that we can continue as an economy, the tenth and now the eleventh year of growth and the eleventh year of creating more jobs.

‘And we will do nothing, nothing to put that at risk.’

Brown said keeping pay down is ‘an absolutely essential element of maintaining the discipline in the economy’ so that ‘we have a stable economy that yields low interest rates’.

Asked to respond to Brown’s statement, Travis said yesterday: ‘Whilst Mr brown may be looking at the whole economy, he has to recognise that the Prison Service and its staff should be treated as a special case.

‘Staff cannot continue to receive below inflation pay whilst being expected to work in overcrowded, under resourced and dangerous prisons.

‘We can’t dictate what the prisons minister will talk about tomorrow.

‘Our agenda will be this year’s pay award, the staging of this year’s pay award and the three per cent “cashable efficiency savings” being imposed on the Prison Service.’

Announcing the curtailing of the 24-hour strike after 12 hours, the POA said in a statement to all branches at 7pm on Wednesday: ‘In light of the offer for meaningful discussions on Friday 31st August 2007 regarding the staging of pay, the National Executive lead our members back to work, irrespective of the threat of injunction.’

Colin Moses, National Chairman of the POA said: ‘I hope these discussions will be meaningful and not merely a stalling tactic.

‘I trust the government has listened to the voice of POA members and that a positive outcome is forthcoming.’