Prison officer leaders reach deal on pay and conditions

Prison officers protesting at Wandsworth prison Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Prison officers protested over safety concerns earlier this month

Leaders of the prison officers union have reached a deal over pay and conditions following concerns about jail safety, the Ministry of Justice has said.

The package on offer from the government includes a pay rise and a reduction in the retirement age.

The deal will now be put to a ballot of the union's membership.

Up to 10,000 prison officers in England and Wales protested last month over claims of a "surge" in jail violence.

They stopped work over claims of a "surge in violence" in jails but returned to work after a High Court injunction ordered them to end their 24-hour protest.

'Good offer'

Under the agreement, prison officers will be allowed to retire at 65 - up to three years ahead of the current state pension age - at no cost to them and with full pension benefits.

Uniformed staff will also be given consolidated pay rises of between 0.5% and 1% for each of the next three years, on top of usual performance-related pay increases.

They also stand to receive a "recognition and retention" package totalling £1,000.

Prisons minister Sam Gyimah, said the government and POA had also "agreed a significant number of health and safety reforms as well as new powers for governors in terms of how they deploy their staff in prisons".

Image copyright BBC, PA
Image caption Prisons in Norwich and Liverpool were among the sites affected by last month's strikes

The POA directed members to take action last month after talks with the government over health and safety concerns broke down.

It came after multiple high-profile incidents at prisons across England.

In October, Jamal Mahmoud, an inmate at HMP Pentonville, died after being stabbed to death in an attack at the prison, which left two others injured.

And last month prisoners caused almost £1m of damage during a riot at Bedford prison.

Days later at HMP Isle of Wight, an inmate cut a prison officer's throat with a razor blade on the way back to his cell.

In an effort to tackle safety issues Justice Secretary Liz Truss unveiled proposals detailing £1.3bn investment in new prisons over the next five years, including plans for 2,100 extra prison officers, drug tests for inmates on entry and exit from prisons, and more autonomy for governors.

In response to the new pay deal she said: "This agreement is a good offer which rightly recognises the hard work and dedication of officers across the country doing a tough job."

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