Prisons' chief wants to end overtime

 

The head of the Irish Prisons Service wants prison officers to agree to changes in work practices aimed at eliminating overtime payments which are seen as a major drain on resources.

Mr Sean Aylward said a package of proposals to be put to staff in the autumn would be designed to address the overtime spend which amounted to €55 million last year.

The proposals will include compensation payments in return for the elimination of overtime working arrangements and a move to "annualised hours".

Under the system of annualised hours, working hours are agreed for the whole year and salary is usually paid in equal weekly or monthly instalments regardless of the number of hours worked in a specific period.

A team of representatives from the management and the Prison Officers Association (POA) set up last year has considered a range of alternatives to overtime.

Mr Eugene Dennehy, from the POA, said the current proposals include compensation awards and ongoing payments for implementing changes in work practices.

Mr Aylward said when he took up his post three years ago he identified excessive reliance on overtime as a big problem which needed to be addressed in a consensual manner. "We are on the cusp of, in the autumn, putting a final offer to the prison officers to move from the system of overtime to annualised hours. We hope it would be balloted on in the new year," he said.

The biggest overspend in the Department of Justice is in the prisons' overtime bill and the issue is of increasing concern to the Government.

Much of the overtime worked is compulsory, with some officers working up to 70 hours a week and earning more than a prison governor.

There has been a 50 per cent expansion in the prison population since 1995 and the current number stands at 3,220.