Union warning over regional staff rent increases

The Prison Officers’ Union is warning of a potential prison staff shortage as a result of the State Government increasing rents in staff housing in regional areas.

The government has increased rents by up to 15 percent, or $60 a fortnight in some areas.

WAPOU Secretary John Welch said the increase didn’t seem reasonable at a time when rents in the private sector were decreasing.

“Rents in regional towns all over WA have been falling, particularly in areas affected by the downturn in the mining sector,” he said.

“It doesn’t seem fair to be putting rents up for public sector staff at a time when they are going down in the marketplace.

“We understand the government has dug itself into a financial hole, but Prison Officers shouldn’t be penalised for that.”

Mr Welch said the increases could make it harder to attract staff to regional areas.

“One of the things that makes a regional posting more attractive is that rents are subsidised by the government,” he said.

“If those subsidies are eroded, then hard to staff prisons like Derby or Roebourne are going to be even more difficult to find Prison Officers for.”

Mr Welch said no extra subsidy at all was being offered in the Goldfields.

“The Eastern Goldfields Prison is coming online and is going to need around 90 more staff,” he said.

“The government is going to find it very hard to recruit those people if it doesn’t offer any incentives for people to go and live in the Goldfields.

“We would like to work with the government to manage the difficulties involved in attracting staff to regional areas, but it hasn’t shown any interest in listening to us.”

The union called on Corrective Services Minister Joe Francis and Housing Minister Brendan Grylls to intervene.