Minister urges prison officers not to take industrial action

Frances Fitzgerald hopeful talks over restoration of pay to 2008 levels will lead to deal

Staffing levels and assaults on prison staff are other problem areas, according to the Prison Officers’ Association. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Staffing levels and assaults on prison staff are other problem areas, according to the Prison Officers’ Association. File photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald says it is crucial to avoid industrial action as the Prison Officers’ Association looks to restore its members’ pay to 2008 levels.

Ms Fitzgerald, speaking at the association’s annual conference in Galway, said she was hopeful that a pay agreement could be put in place.

Leading figures within the organisation including president Stephen Delaney and general secretary John Clinton have voiced their anger at the lack of pay increases for prison officers despite the economic recovery in the State. Staffing levels and assaults on prison staff are other problem areas.

Ms Fitzgerald said she hoped the association and the Government could come to an agreement shortly.

“The pay talks will be commencing, they [the association] will be part of it. The Government will approach that wanting to reach out as much we possibly can to public sector workers. But there are constraints,” she said.

“There has been a very challenging work environment in terms of pay over the last number of years. I want to thank them for all of the efforts they have made, the work they have continued to do.

“We still face a challenging but obviously improving economic situation. We will shortly have the report from the commission and Minister [for Public Expenditure Paschal] Donohoe will be dealing with this, and clearly we want to reach out as much as we can.

Important work

She added that she recognised the important work that prison officers do.

“It’s a very challenging environment and we do want to support them as much as we can.”

After the country ground to a halt following recent industrial action within the national bus service, Ms Fitzgerald said it was important prison officers did not take similar action.

“Clearly, dealing with the kind of issues that I have been discussing here is an important part of that. But we have a process in place in relation to pay talks and Minister Donohoe will be doing the very best that the Government can do in the overall context,” she said.