Tough talking expected as 1,100 prison officers face redundancy

 

Some 1,100 prison officers are to lose their jobs in Northern Ireland within the next three years, as prisoner releases reduce the numbers of officers needed by more than a third.

As republican and loyalist prisoner releases continue on an almost daily basis, it is expected that 100 jobs will be shed by March next year, with a further 1,000 jobs lost by March 2001.

The Prison Officers' Association (POA) in the North met officials from the Prison Service yesterday to discuss the inevitable redundancies that will follow from the releases.

A long period of hard negotiation between the POA and the Prison Service is expected. While the British government has promised that laid-off prison officers will be suitably recompensed, the POA is concerned that redundancy payoffs will be inadequate.

The Prison Service is meeting the Prison Governors' Association today and further meetings about the terms for early retirement are planned.

At present there are 3,100 prison officers, but if the current peace holds that figure will be slashed by more than one-third by 2001, according to prison sources.

A further eight paramilitary prisoners - five loyalists and three republicans - were released yesterday under the terms of the Belfast Agreement.

The number of prisoners freed under the agreement has now reached 105, and is expected to top 200 by Christmas. By May 2000 about 400 loyalist and republican prisoners will have been released.