Doncaster prison staff walk out over safety fears

Prison staff outside HMP Lindholme, Bawtry Road, Doncaster on November 15 2016. They have walked out because of health and safety concerns.

Prison staff outside HMP Lindholme, Bawtry Road, Doncaster on November 15 2016. They have walked out because of health and safety concerns.

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Staff at a Doncaster prison have joined thousands of workers across the country who have walked out over health and safety concerns.

Prison workers were seen outside HMP Lindholme, Bawtry Road, Hatfield, this morning.

A spokemsan for the union that represents them said they have to protest before someone is killed, but the Ministry of Justice described the action as unjustified and “unlawful”.

A statement released by the Prison Officers Association (POA) said: “It is with regret that The POA NEC has been forced to direct all POA members to take protest action today following the latest offer from NOMS to address concerns over Health and Safety.

“This follows the Unions decision this month to suspend planned action and allow talks to take place with governments representatives (NOMS).

“Unfortunately, these discussions have not addressed the Unions fears nor provided sufficient safeguards.

“The POA has consistently raised the volatile and dangerous state of prisons, as chronic staff shortages and impoverished regimes has resulted in staff no longer being safe, a lack of discipline and prisoners taking control of areas.

“The POA as a responsible trades union will ensure every prison has minimum cover arrangements in place to protect prisoner wellbeing security and safety, during this protest.

“The Union is seeking urgent meetings with the Government to secure a safe and sensible resolution to these issues.

Andy Darken, deputy general secretary for the POA, added: “We have 228 members from HMP Lindholme. A significant amount will have walked out, but some will not be working at the moment. It is not possible to say how many staff will be out there.

“Emergency regimes are in place, but prisoners will remain locked up unless it for emergency reasons like medication.

“This is not a strike, this is a cry for help. Across the country, assaults on prison staff have increased by 43 per cent in the last 12 months. The statistics are damning, they speak for themselves.

“NOMS have failed to deal with the problem and we can’t sit back and wait for one of our staff to be killed. We have got to protest and say this is unacceptable. NOMS need to accept responsibility for the problem in prisons.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesman, said: “There is no justification for this action.

“We have been engaged in constructive talks with the POA over the last two weeks and have provided a comprehensive response to a range of health and safety concerns.

“The Government has announced an additional 2,500 frontline officers to help reduce violence in prisons.

“We have well established contingencies in place to manage prisons and keep the public safe but we are clear that this constitutes unlawful industrial action, and we will seek remedy in the courts.”