Union rights of prison officers under threat

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The Independent Online
PRISON OFFICERS, already prevented by the High Court from taking industrial action, may now have their right to belong to an independent trade union withdrawn.

Ted Whybrew, the Certification Officer, yesterday announced an unprecedented review of the status of the Prison Officers' Association following the temporary ruling by Mr Justice May on 18 November, blocking a work-to-rule over privatisation planned for this week.

The review is prompted by the court's decision that prison officers were effectively 'constables' not workers, and, therefore, could not take industrial action. The POA will issue a statement today, responding to the announcement.

Graham Osborne, assistant Certification Officer, said that if it were proved that prison officers enjoyed the same powers as police officers, then they could not belong to an independent union. Without a certificate of independence, an employees' organisation loses legal immunities if it takes industrial action. The association would forfeit the right to notification of redundancies and lose representation on health and safety committees.

For similar reasons, the status of the Prison Governors' Association is also to be reviewed.