New report into Acacia Prison vindicates Union EBA stance

A new report into the Serco-run Acacia prison has found significant issues with staffing levels, which is also one of the main issues of contention in current Enterprise Bargaining Agreement negotiations.

A report by the Inspector of Custodial Services has found that staff reported being overwhelmed by their workload and were concerned about staff shortages.

WA Prison Officers’ Union Secretary John Welch said the report found that Prison Officers had repeatedly raised concerns there was not enough custodial staff to run basic operational duties.

“Our members have been saying for months that the prison has some serious issues with staffing levels, and this report reflects that position,” said Mr Welch.

Mr Welch said the company’s refusal to consult with the unions about staffing levels was one of the main reasons Prison Officers and staff at Acacia had voted overwhelmingly to reject an EBA offer from Serco.

The ballot, which closed on Monday, returned an 83% ‘No’ vote out of the 294 people who voted.

Serco took its EBA offer direct to members through a private ballot after negotiations broke down with the WA Prison Officers’ Union and the CPSU/CSA.

Mr Welch said the members of the two unions have a number of concerns about the conditions outlined in Serco’s offer.

“Our members are concerned that the new EBA attempts to undermine the unions’ right to represent them in the workplace,” Mr Welch said.

“Serco has attempted to change the consultative process in ways that will make it harder for members’ rights to be upheld.

“The company also wants to change the dispute resolution process to exclude items that are not listed in the EBA.

“This means that any unforeseen issues which crop up will not be able to be disputed by the unions. Since we don’t have a crystal ball, this seems unfair.”

Mr Welch said the fact that the ballot returned an 83% ‘No’ vote showed how strongly members felt about securing the right to be represented by their unions.

“Our members have legitimate concerns about the low staffing levels at Acacia and believe that this is a threat to their safety,” he said.

“They would like the unions to be consulted on staffing levels, but the company has refused point blank.

“The EBA at the Serco-run Wandoo prison allows for the unions to be consulted over staffing, and we don’t see why Acacia should be any different.”

Mr Welch said he hoped the Inspector of Custodial Services report would convince Serco that there were issues with staffing and that it would now come back to the negotiating table so a new EBA could be reached.

The company has offered workers a wage rise of 4.5% a year over 3 years, which Mr Welch said the unions’ members would be happy to accept as long as it is applied to all employees equally.