Tagged: Prison Officers’ Association

Northumberland prison is a ‘powder keg’ according to MPs

> Another success story for privatisation….

The prison service is “a powder keg” and it’s only a matter of time before staff are seriously hurt, an MP has warned.

Ian Lavery, Labour MP for Wansbeck, urged Ministers to act over a dramatic increase in assaults on prison officer staff.

And speaking in the House of Commons, he highlighted staff cuts at HMP Northumberland, which was transferred to private management 12 months ago.

Sodexo Justice Services now runs the prison after winning a 15-year contract worth an estimated £250 million.

It comes after a number of MPs raised concerns about working conditions in the nation’s prisons.

Work commissioned by the Prison Officers’ Association and conducted by academics warned of high levels of stress among prison staff, and found 65 per cent of prison officers often thought about quitting the job.

A Commons motion warning MPs are “deeply concerned at the findings of the report” was signed by Blyth Valley MP Ronnie Campbell and North Tyneside MP Mary Glindon as well as Mr Lavery.

The MPs urged the Government “to conduct an urgent inquiry into the prison system and the terms and conditions of those trying to professionally carry out an important public service under the most difficult of circumstances”.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Lavery said:

“The Prison Service is not only in crisis, but is a powder keg.

“Somebody must be held accountable because someone, somewhere will be seriously hurt in the Prison Service.

“Nine members of staff are assaulted daily, which means 3,400 a year, up 9.4 per cent.

“More dramatically, serious assaults on staff have increased by 36% since 2010.”

He highlighted the situation at HMP Northumberland, where around 50 inmates took over a wing in riots in March.

He asked Justice Minister Andrew Selous: “Does the Minister share my concerns about the situation at HMP Northumberland, which is in my area?

“When that prison was privatised, Sodexo immediately reduced the work force by a third, yet the prison population has been increasing.

“Have not prison officers who are left to carry out the work every right to be stressed? What will the Minister do about it?”

The Minister told the Commons:

“Those who manage contracted prisons absolutely have a duty to make sure that they keep their staff as well.”

The Government was taking action to protect prison officers, he said.

“We are working towards a new protocol for escalating matters when prison staff are victims of assault to the  which rightly recognises the seriousness of these incidents.”

“The evidence that the Prison Service continues to provide a rewarding career in which staff are able to change lives is irrefutable.

“It is demonstrated in the commitment and tenacity that prison officers have shown in recent months in the difficult circumstances that I have described.

“It is also evident in the organisation’s ability to attract 1,700 new prison officer recruits.”

Sodexo Justice Services operates one prison in Scotland and three in England.

It is part of the French multinational Sodexo Group, which provides services including catering, cleaning and security.

The first jail to be transferred from public to private operation was HMP Birmingham, which is run by G4S.

Fourteen other prisons in England and Wales have been privately managed since they were opened.

Liberal Democrat MP Sir Alan Beith has also expressed concern about staff cuts introduced by Sodexo at HMP Northumberland.

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle,  11 Dec 2014

Zero hours contracts picked apart by union leaders at the Durham Miners’ Gala

Zero hours contracts were picked apart by union leaders as part of a round of speeches at the most popular Durham Miners’ Gala since the 1960s.

The historic event, which is now in its 130th year, attracted thousands of people to its Big Meeting event on Saturday and was blessed with fine, sunny weather.

Long-time Labour MP Dennis Skinner warned corporations of using the controversial zero hours arrangements and took aim at Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley, for employing people on that basis through his company Sports Direct.

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers also spoke, as well as GMB general secretary Paul Kenny and Prison Officers’ Association general secretary Steve Gillan.

Thousands of people lined the streets of Durham as banners from former mining communities were carried past accompanied by the sound of more than 50 brass bands.

The Chopwell Lodge banner with its striking imagery of Karl Marx and former Russian leader Vladimir Lenin caught people’s attention as usual, while several new banners joined the procession this year.

Organisers from the Durham Miners’ Association said it was the most well attended year since the 1960s, despite ongoing financial worries for future galas.

The organisation faces legal bills of £2.2m following a failed six-year compensation battle for its members through the courts.

While £60,000 was found to run this year’s event through a fundraising drive, association chairman Dave Hopper has previously said there may be difficulties beyond 2015.

However he told the crowd: “Don’t worry. We will be back next year and probably the year after.”

Source – Newcastle Journal, 14 July 2014

Failure to back Miners’ Strike strike weakened union movement, says miners’ leader

Labour Party leaders and union chiefs who did not support the miners’ strike in the 1980s helped weaken the movement, a miners’ leader says.

Thousands of people will flock to Durham City on Saturday (July 12) for the 130th Durham Miners’ Gala, which marks 30 years since the start of the bitter dispute.

In his programme notes, Dave Hopper, general secretary of Gala organisers the Durham Miners’Association, says declassified documents reveal that the Thatcher Government was determined “to butcher the coalfields and smash the National Union of Mineworkers.

He praises politicians and unions who supported the strike.

But he continues:“At the same time, these revelations should shame those trade unions and Labour Party leaders who did not support our strike.

“Those who refused to come to our aid bear a huge responsibility, not just for our defeat, but for weakening the whole trade union movement.

“They will be remembered in the former coalfield of Britain just as we remember those so-called leaders who betrayed the 1926 General Strike.

“The refusal of New Labour, during 13 years of government, to repeal the anti-trade union legislation, which was used to defeat us, only compounds their shame.”

 Mr Hopper goes on to say that the “lack of a radical alternative” is turning hundreds of thousands of people off politics and that he believes Labour would regain support if it campaigned “with passion and commitment”to reverse privatisation.

Five new banners will be on display at the Gala – Fenhall Drift Mine, Lanchester; St Hilda Colliery, South Shields; New Brancepeth Colliery, County Durham; a UNITE Community Membership Banner and West Rainton Primary School’s Adventure Pit banner.

The parade through the city to the racecourse will start at about 8.30am.

There will be a funfair, various stalls and entertainment, including folk singer Benny Graham, on the field throughout the day.

Speeches will be made between 12.15pm and 2.30pm.

The speakers are Bolsover Labour MP Dennis Skinner, Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB, Prison Officers Association general secretary Steve Gillan, NUT general secretary Christine Blower, and Mick Whelan, general secretary of ASLEF.

Mr Hopper says Labour leader Ed Miliband was “sounded out” about attending the Gala, but nothing had been heard from him.

The blessing of banners service in Durham Cathedral starts at 3pm.

Delegations from Germany, Ukraine and Ireland are expected to attend.

Details, including events marking the strike anniversary, are at http://www.durhamminers.org

Source –  Durham Times,  10 July 2014

Durham Miners’ Gala will be tinged with sadness following deaths of Bob Crow and Tony Benn

The 130th Durham Miners’Gala will be tinged with sadness following the deaths of two leading figures of the Labour movement.

The event, on Saturday, July 12, is set to draw thousands of people to the city centre to watch the parade of banners and brass bands.

Tony Benn and Bob Crow, who died within days of each other in March, were popular speakers who appeared several times at the Big Meeting.

Mr Benn, the former veteran Labour MP who renounced his hereditary peerage, spoke at 20 Galas and also attended when he was not one of the speakers.

Mr Crow, general secretary of the RMT transport union, delivered a call from the platform at last year’s Gala for unions to form a new political party to fight for their interests.

Labour leader Ed Milliband once declined a Gala invitation because he didn’t want to share the platform with a “militant’’union leader.

Dave Hopper, secretary of the Durham Miners Association, which organises the event, said: “We will be saying goodbye to those comrades.

“Gresford (the miners’ hymn that is always played at the Gala) this year will have a special significance because we have had a number of funerals of good comrades.”

 One of the Gala’s most popular speakers, Dennis Skinner, the Labour MP nicknamed the Beast of Bolsover, will return to the platform.

The 82-year-old former miner, who is renowned for his wit and entertaining speaking style, last addressed the event in 2011.

The line-up is completed by GMB general secretary Paul Kenny and Gala first timers Mick Whelan, general secretary of the rail union ASLEF, Steve Gillan, general secretary of the Prison Officers’ Association, and Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers.

Mr Hopper added: “We have a delegation of miners coming from the Ukraine and we are hoping one of them will say a few words about the very troubled and dangerous situation in that country.”

For details of the Gala and events in the run-up to it visit http://www.durhamminers.org

Source –  Durham Times, 02 July 2014