Prison officers meet to discuss departmental response to EBA

Prison Officers at three Western Australian regional prisons will meet today to discuss the Department of Corrective Services’ response to their request to commence talks on a new enterprise bargaining agreement.

Officers at Greenough, Albany and Bunbury Regional Prisons have approval from the Department to attend hour-long ‘special branch meetings’ outside the prison gates at each of the prisons.

Prison officers are calling for proper staffing levels, new prison facilities to deal with the chronic overcrowding and better pay and conditions.

WA Prison Officers’ Union Secretary John Welch said Prison Officers throughout the state were concerned that the Department has taken almost three months to respond to correspondence from the union asking for EBA negotiations to commence.

Mr Welch said the union first wrote to the Department about the EBA on September 10 but got no response, then wrote again on October 2 and again on November 2 and still no response until early this week.

“Over two and a half months went by without any response from the Department to our concerns,” said Mr Welch.

The Department has refused to begin discussions with the union until December 11, because clause 4.2 of the current EBA specifically mentions that date.

But Mr Welch says that particular clause was included to ensure that the parties could not avoid starting negotiations any later than 6 months before the end of the current EBA and it doesn’t preclude the Department from opening talks now to ensure the officers’ concerns are addressed prior to the State Election.

“The Department is waiting til the last possible date to start meeting with us. We’ve written back telling them that we want swift negotiations, not a timetable which makes it impossible for us to consult with members about the outcomes of the discussions.

“Given the amount of time that has lapsed since we first contacted them we’ve also told them that when we meet on December 11 we’ll expect a full counter proposal from them.

Prison Officers are angry that the State Government has done little to address the concerns we have raised in relation to overcrowding, pay and working conditions.

“In the past few weeks we’ve had officers punched in the head, knocked to the ground and suffering from cuts, bruises and muscle damage yet the Department and Minister continue to drag their feet.

“With nearly 80 assaults on Prison Officers in the last year and that number rising, when is the Barnett Government going to start showing some respect for the work these officers do?” said Mr Welch.

WAPOU recently launched the “Respect the Risk “ campaign to get a fairer deal for Prison Officers from the Barnett Government.

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