Give prison staff their jobs back, union urges

The prison officers’ union wants the New South Wales government to allow its members who resigned during the bitter battle over the privatisation of Cessnock jail to return to their jobs.

In a surprise backflip, the government yesterday announced it will now keep the corrective centre under public ownership.

During the dispute 60 prison officers resigned and Corrective Services halved the prison’s population by transferring more than 200 inmates to other institutions.

Tony Howen from the Public Service Association says allowing officers to return to the ranks would ensure the jail gets back to normal quickly.

“I’d strongly recommend that, I think these people should come back,” he said.

“This shouldn’t have happened in the first place.

“We would assume now that they’d starting moving them back but we’d have to get some staff before we do that because in this process we’ve lost approximately 60 officers.”

Cessnock councillor James Ryan has told the state government that the community expects the town’s jail to be restored to full operating capacity now that it is remaining publicly owned.

He says Cessnock jail must be restored to its pre-dispute condition.

“I sincerely hope that that is the government’s intention, because if the government’s intention is just to put privatisation on hold for a while and restore Cessnock jail to the full capacity that it was prior to this proposal, then I think this community will start speaking out very loudly once again because that won’t be acceptable,” Councillor Ryan said.

Union organiser Matt Bindley says it is great news that Cessnock will not be sold to the private sector, but he is angry the privatisation of Parklea prison is still on the agenda.

“The Government needs to realise if they want to end the career of staff at Parklea, we are going to end their career in the Labor Government,” he said.

The Opposition’s spokesman on prisons Greg Smith says the Government has buckled to union pressure, and should proceed with the privatisation of both Parklea and Cessnock jails.

“I think it just shows you the unions still run this government,” he said.

Unions are threatening to take industrial action over the Parklea prison privatisation plan.



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