Mass 'sick' protest at Scrubs

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The Independent Online
MORE THAN half the prison officers at Wormwood Scrubs, centre of brutality allegations against inmates, went "sick" yesterday in protest action after the suspension of nine members of staff, writes Jason Bennetto.

Up to 80 prison managers had to be called in to staff the west London jail after about 100 officers failed to report to work.

Inmates spent most the day locked in their cells as the controversy surrounding the prison continued to escalate into one the most serious disputes seen in recent years.

The unofficial protest - prison officers are banned from strike action - came after eight of their members were suspended and reported to the police following allegations of systematic violence and racism against eight inmates. A junior governor has also been suspended on disciplinary matters.

Union leaders said last night that they had struck a deal with the Prison Service.

The prison was thrown into disarray yesterday morning when 61 of the 125 officers failed to turn up for duty because of "sickness". Later in the day as a new shift came on a further 40 were also overcome with illness.

Richard Tilt, the Director-General of the Prison Service, said: "Reporting sick in such large numbers helps no one. I recognise that the current investigation has unsettled many staff but the way forward is to have the allegations properly and externally investigated."

Ron Adams, national vice president of the Prison Officers Association, yesterday insisted his members off sick were genuinely unwell. "Their families have been abused ... we saw some of our members breaking down in tears because of what has happened," he said.