Officers strike in protest as tensions ignite over bullying and harassment by supervisors.
London (19 Nov. 2009) - An illegal strike by prison guards in Britain – sparked by bullying and harassment from supervisors – is spreading in Britain and being watched closely in Canada, where tensions over working conditions in correctional facilities have risen dramatically in recent years.
Hundreds of officers have been manning a picket line outside HMP Liverpool since they walked off the job earlier in the week. Since then, another 150 officers from Risley Prison, near Warrington, have joined them as well as staff at Lancaster Castle, Lancaster Farms and Verne prison.
Staff at Preston, Wandsworth and Cardiff prisons are also threatening to stop work unless managers agree to talks, says Mark Freeman of the Prison Officers Association (POA).
The walkout has been condemned by the British Prison Service and the strikers have been warned that "appropriate measures" will be taken against them as a result. An injunction could be issued in a bid to force the guards to return.
However, Freeman says the protest may get bigger rather than smaller because of widespread sympathy among prison officers across England and Wales.
"The Prison Service's intransigence on this issue is ridiculous. They would not agree to a meeting to discuss this issue. The POA are holding out the olive branch. We have said to the Prison Service you can end this dispute now by agreeing to a dedicated meeting to discuss the bullying and harassment by senior management at Liverpool. They are refusing to do that."
The employees are tired of being "managed by fear," a spokesperson added.
"We have had a management at Liverpool prison that has constantly bullied staff. It works with a two-tier system. Allegations of a manager being a bully are always pushed under the carpet but prison officers are finding themselves in trouble over a whole range of things. Staff have been moved, dismissed by a wrong and unjust management."
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE