Thursday 27 October 2016

Staff at Oberstown set to strike due to worst attacks in 30 years

Fianna Fail spokesman on children, Robert Troy (Photo: Tom Burke)
Fianna Fail spokesman on children, Robert Troy (Photo: Tom Burke)

Staff at the country's only juvenile detention centre are threatening industrial action over safety concerns.

An increase in assaults as well as a rise in "high-level" stand-offs are seen as the main reasons behind the proposed strike by staff at the €64m Oberstown campus.

The most recent incident left a member of staff hospitalised after a young offender attacked several workers with the bracket of a TV frame.

Union correspondence circulated to staff said they intended to ballot for industrial action.

"Impact has sanctioned the IYJB (Irish Youth Justice Branch) to conduct a ballot of members (working at the Oberstown Campus) for industrial action up to and including the withdrawal of labour on the grounds of safety," the email read.

"It must be made clear that the IYJB are hugely concerned about the safety of staff in the workplace on the campus."

The Department of Children and Youth Affairs confirmed that management at Oberstown are aware of the threat of industrial action. A statement said a notice was received earlier this month in which staff signalled their intention to ballot for industrial action "based on a number of ongoing issues related to staffing levels and current care practices".


Fianna Fail children's spokesman Robert Troy said the situation at the youth facility "is getting increasingly worse" and claimed that the issue of safety on the campus grounds "has not been properly addressed" by minister for children James Reilly.

"I have brought this matter up on several occasions, and now we have reached the stage where strike action is imminent because the staff's concerns aren't being addressed," said Mr Troy.

"I have met with workers on the ground and the number of stand-off situations, in particular those of a high-level nature, has increased over the last number of months, as have assaults in the facility.

"One member of staff who has worked there for 30 years told me he has never seen the situation as bad."

The latest violent incident happened after a young offender returned to Oberstown from a court appearance.

He appeared to be under the influence of a controlled substance and was placed under observation.

He collapsed the following morning and an ambulance was called.

However, he regained consciousness and attacked staff at the scene with the TV bracket. Paramedics believed the youth was too out of control and decided it was not safe to place him in the ambulance.

Experienced staff at the scene said it was one of the most violent assaults they had ever seen.

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