PRISON officers at Mount- joy unanimously agreed yesterday to press ahead with a ballot for industrial action, up to and including strike action.
The move follows a decision by prison management last week to cancel planned talks with the Prison Officers’ Association (POA) unless the ballot was called off.
The Prison Service claimed on Monday that “all issues raised during the dispute had been addressed to the satisfaction of both sides” following meetings between governor Ned Whelan and local POA officials.
The ballot was announced last Tuesday when Mountjoy staff walked out of their job for four hours after prison management placed a violent inmate Leroy Dumbrell into a special unit in the prison.
The POA argues that under an agreement trashed out last March with the Prison Service, the separation unit would operate with a low staffing level on the basis that only certain prisoners were housed there and under a certain regime.
This excluded violent inmates, like Dumbrell, being placed there, they claimed.
The POA will ballot its 520-odd members in Mountjoy and could have a result within two or three weeks. If the membership backs industrial action, the decision on what, if any, action should be taken will be made by the national executive committee of the POA.
“The Prison Officers Association can confirm that after a major meeting of staff at Mountjoy Prison this afternoon, it was decided unanimously to ballot staff at the prison on industrial action, up to and including strike action,” said the association’s Jim Mitchell.
Mr Mitchell said if the Prison Service wants to change the regime in the unit, then the staffing levels need to be changed.
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