Prison officers say they are disenchanted by Government’s blatant disrespect in addressing their issues.
At a media briefing yesterday outside the Golden Grove Remand Prison, Prison Officers’ Association (POA) president Ceron Richards said officersare demotivated and disenchanted.
“Yet these officers still come to work to advance the interest of the state, yet the state does not care about us when we have our issues,” he said.
He said over the past year prison officers, have been supporting the State with its greatest challenge.
“We have a disease, a foreign agent, COVID-19, and prison officers within the prison environment have been giving their service coming to work and advancing the interest of the State, yet the state continues to be derelict in its duties in treating with the interests of the service. There is a barrage of complaints from both officers and inmates regarding the situation they are in,” he said.
Richards said prison officers have been seeking clarification on outstanding negotiations but “Minister of Finance Mr Colm Imbert is still telling the country they are unable to negotiate because of the economy.”
He accused the minister of “undermining the integrity of the negotiation process by not even coming to the table.”
Richards said there is an outstanding debt owed to prison officers dating back to 2011 for overtime beyond their 44 hour work week.
“It is seriously disappointing that the state in times of good windfall when oil dollar was high did not pay prison officers nd are coming now during the pandemic to do the same, saying it is a pandemic,” he said.
The POA president said prison officers are paying out of their own pockets for medical items, even in the light of a serious pandemic. He also raised concerns about the state of the prisons vehicle fleet and the dormitories at the Golden Grove .
National Security Minister Stuart Young responded and said he was disappointed with the association.
He said, “I have been working with Mr Richards and the Prison Officers’ Association since assuming the office of Minister of National Security. I have always said that the Prison Service is a priority under my tenure. I am somewhat disappointed to be told that Mr Richards went this route. I have always asked that the Association write to me to appraise me of any issues that they have and the Ministry would do its best to address what it can.”
He added over the past three years his ministry implemented a number of significant projects at Prisons to improve the environment for both officers and inmates.
He gave a few exampled such as work being done to remand, extra security assets being installed, equipment being procured for prison officers’ personal safety and security and much more.
Minister Young said, “The overtime issue is an inherited one, since 2011 and when it was brought to my attention I asked the Prison Service and ministry to audit and confirm the claims as this needs to be done. During the pandemic, the ministry has provided the Prison Service with PPE and other items for dealing with COVID-19 throughout. The red herring being thrown out about privatizing the prison system is without any justification or merit and is dismissed.”
He added there is certainly “no disrespect” being shown to the prison officers and proper communication is to be encouraged as has been his mantra throughout.