Prison officers to vote on industrial action in pay row

Prison officers are to be balloted on industrial action over pay, as union leaders warned staff morale “has never been lower”.

The Prison Officers Association Scotland said its members are feeling anger and frustration as they face what union bosses claim is the prospect of another year of capped pay rises.

The concerns over “inadequate” pay come as officers have to deal with growing levels of violence, overcrowding and increasingly volatile environments, according to the union.

It has called for the Scottish Government to respond quickly to its concerns, cautioning: “We are on the slippy slope back to the dark days of the 80s.”

The Prison Officers Association Scotland agreed to the ballot at a special conference in Perth on Friday.

Assistant general secretary Andy Hogg said: “This decision reflects the anger and frustration of our members over the lack of progress around their inadequate levels of pay.

“In 2014 it was accepted by the then justice secretary that a new pay structure should be introduced to recognise and reward Scottish prison officers appropriately for the challenging work they do. Five years on we are no further forward.

“This is coming at a time when our members are subject to increasing levels of violence, excessive overcrowding and an environment that is becoming ever more volatile through staff exposure to psychoactive substances and the violent behaviour of prisoners under their influence.

“We are on the slippy slope back to the dark days of the 80s and staff morale has never been lower. We have the makings of a perfect storm.”

The union has not yet announced a date for the ballot.

Scottish national chairman Phil Fairlie said: “At a time when we should be sitting down discussing proper staffing levels for our prisons and a pay system that rewards and recognises the incredible work our members are doing every day, we are in fact being invited to discuss where to find in excess of £20 million of savings due to the SPS budget settlement.

“Scottish Government need to listen to what we are telling them and respond quickly, before we find ourselves trying to manage a crisis in our prisons that is gathering momentum day by day.”

The Scottish Government and Scottish Prison Service have been contacted for comment.

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