More strikes as prison staff take action

THIS time it is the turn of prison workers in Suffolk to walk out as yet another strike is called in the year of discontent.Maintenance staff at Hollesley Bay, Highpoint and Edmunds Hill prisons will be protesting against a minimal rise in their annual pay by holding a 48-hour strike starting tomorrow.

PRISON workers today took they pay dispute on to the picket line.

Around 20 maintanence workers from Hollesley Bay prison, near Woodbridge, joined an estimated 4000 plumbers, electricians, chefs and farm workers from four different trade unions in a two-day national strike.

The actions has been organised to express prison worker's anger at a one per cent pay rise imposed in 2003 with members of the Amicus, the Transport and General Worker's, GMB and UCATT unions taking part.

Standing with plackards on the approach road to the prison, Terence Jacobs, a carpenter and joiner, said: "Nobody likes to have to strike - it's just a case of having to.

"I don't think they have looked after us. I have worked at Hollesley for over 33 years now and I am disappointed that it has come down to this.

"We should have had a wage inc rease on July 1 but they are not even talking about it yet."

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Glenn Holdom, regional organoser for GMB union, said: "The hope is to put pressure on the prison service, to re-engage in talks for a good negiated settlement for 2004."

Another member of staff, who refused to be named, said: "We are rather disillusioned with management's attitude towards us. They keep telling us that everybody who works in the prison service is equal but when it comes to money it doesn't up."

Despite numerous attempts at negotiation, and a strike on May 28 this year, the pay rise remains unchanged.

John Allot, national secretary for Amicus, said: "These are the workers that make sure the prison operates on a day to day basis.

"They do a lot of work with the prisoners and as well as being skilled in their particular trade they are also trained in how to deal with things like hostage situations and suicide bids.

"If the prison officers had been given a one per cent increase as well then, although it would still be low, there might not be the dissatisfaction there is now."

Prison officers received a 2.8pc pay rise for 2003.

A Prison Service spokeswoman said: "The offer made for industrial staff resulted in a pay increase of 4% for around half of their members.

"The other half received a 3% increase, although some of this is non-consolidated. Inflation currently stands at 2.6%.

"Governors were informed that strike action was planned and that they should seek to examine and prepare their contingency plans in advance of action being taken.

"They were advised that possible issues of high risk should be identified."

Do you think prison staff are right to strike? A you a member of staff taking part in the strike? Write in to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk or visit the forum at www.eveningstar.co.uk

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