Angry prison officers to vote in strike ballot
PRISON officers are preparing to declare strike action for the first time in more than 25 years amid serious concerns over their safety in the country’s jails.
There are growing tensions between unions and the Irish Prison Service (IPS) over cutbacks in the conditions of employment enjoyed by officers.
They have also voiced concern about their safety after the Derek Brockwell escape from Tallaght Hospital, during which two prison officers were stabbed.
Sources said they feel they are working in a more dangerous environment and handling the same number of prisoners with fewer staff.
It has emerged that the Irish Prison Officers Association (IPOA) is balloting its 3,200 members for strike action.
In an indication of the frustration being felt by officers, the union believes that up to 95pc of members will vote in favour of a strike.
“Trust has broken down. We had agreed with the IPS that, like other countries, prison officers would have attack dogs for use in riots, then that was unilaterally withdrawn,” a union figure told the Herald.
Labour senator John Whelan has called on Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald to intervene.
“This is an unsatisfactory scenario and must be defused by the minister,” he said.
“Prisons are complex, challenging and highly charged workplace environments.
“Prison staff have already embraced sweeping reforms, rationalisation, pay cuts, additional taxes and verifiable savings under the Croke Park and Haddington Road agreements to the tune of €21m and €11.5m respectively.”
The IPS did not respond to a request for comment last night.