UP TO A thousand Prison Officers marched down Whitehall to a rally at Westminster on Budget Day yesterday.
Prison Officer’s Association (POA) rep at HMP Bullingham told News Line: ‘We are campaigning because we think 68 years is too late for a prison officer to retire.
‘Prison Officers are dealing with dangerous and difficult people on a daily basis. It is a physical job, like the firefighters – I wouldn’t expect them to retire at 60.
‘The government have attacked civil service pensions and we are determined to defend them.’
Graham Hollgate POA Branch Chair HMP Askham Grange near York said: ‘There are only two female prisons in the country and this government wants to close ours.
‘We have got the lowest re-offending rates in the whole country of 5%, the national average is around 60%, but the government still wants to close us.
‘What is happening to our pay and pensions is disgraceful. I have been in the job for 28 years and this is the worse period I have ever known. Without a doubt there should be a General Strike – the POA asked for that two years ago at the Trade Union Congress, but nobody there is organising it.’
POA Deputy General Secretary Andy Darken said: ‘We are protesting about the retirement age being put up to 68.
‘We are also protesting about the abysmal level of pay rise of 1% which in essence is a cut. Also staff on incremental rises like nurses will get nothing.
‘We support the call for a General Strike, that is the only way we can make this government listen.’
POA General Secretary Steve Gillan said: ‘We are marching today in order to bring to the attention of the government the devastating budget cuts which are making it impossible for prison officers and related grades to rehabilitate prisoners.
‘Our prisons are vastly overcrowded with not enough staff. Our members are facing increasing assaults, their pay is being eroded, their pensions are being attacked. Loyal public servants find themselves being blamed and penalised for the mess the bankers created.
‘The only way the Trade Union movement can deal with it is by calling a General Strike.’
Meanwhile, a group of GMB and Unite members and officers held a protest opposite parliament.
GMB National Officer Rehana Azam told News line: ‘We are demonstrating over the government’s decision to attack NHS pay.’
Rachael Maskell Unite Head of Health added: ‘Jeremy Hunt’s ignoring the Pay Review Body is an absolute disgrace.’