Prison officers rule out more strikes

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Several hours of talks failed to end the dispute over prison pay, but officers have ruled out further strikes before they meet the Government again in two weeks.

Leaders of the Prison Officers Association (POA) met Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, in London yesterday, two days after a wildcat strike in jails across England and Wales over the Government's decision to pay a 2.5 per cent wage increase in two stages.

In a joint statement, the two sides said: "We have had some hours of constructive discussions. We will be meeting again in two weeks' time. The Justice Secretary, Jack Straw, emphasised to the POA that there can be no change in this year's pay settlement. The POA told him that they had no intention of further industrial action at this time but would continue to seek a resolution to the dispute."

Colin Moses, the POA chairman, said: "We have not got more money today, but that is not to say there will not be more money in future. We expect further negotiations and we will continue to press for a fair award for our members."

The talks came as the Government admitted that its plans to create an extra 9,500 prison places by 2012 might not solve the jail overcrowding crisis. In the worst case scenario, officials warned ministers that the England and Wales prison population, currently at a record of just under 81,000, could reach nearly 102,000 by 2014. The lowest figure is estimated at 88,000.

The figures show that even on the medium projection, the Government would be almost 5,000 places short by 2014. The Ministry of Justice said that the scenarios were not precise forecasts. It said the three scenarios are considered "equally likely".

The Government announced that criminals released early because of the overcrowding had committed a further 48 offences since the controversial scheme was introduced.

Nick Herbert, the shadow Justice Secretary, said: "Early release is further undermining public confidence in the criminal justice system. It must be halted immediately and emergency secure accommodation provided."