Prison officers strike deferred after Labour Relations Commission intervention

Industrial action planned at the country’s prisons has been deferred following an intervention by the Labour Relations Commission.

The Prison Officers’ Association had given notice on March 11 to the Irish Prisons Service of its intention to commence industrial action this Thursday, after 93% of its members voted in favour of a ballot for action.

The POA claimed the ballot arose as a result of a “series of unilateral decisions by the Irish Prison Service that have impacted on staff safety”.

It is understood that shortly after the result, an oversight committee attached to the Haddington Road agreement contacted the LRC.

The industrial relations mediation body contacted both sides and a preliminary meeting was held last Thursday. Both parties were asked was there room for manoeuvre in terms of their positions.

A series of meetings have been mapped out over the coming three-to-four weeks for further discussions.

The LRC is expected, as is standard, to meet with both sides separately, during which they will bring the position of the other side.

The outcome of the POA ballot came just hours after officers met with Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald.

The POA said there had been a “positive engagement” with the minister, where there were “commitments given to practical measures to ensure the safety of prison officers”.

This was in light of violent assaults on prison staff at Tallaght Hospital — where a convict slashed an officer’s stomach open in a planned escape — and the Midlands Prison.

The POA has requested the minister and prison authorities supply members with protective equipment, including anti-stab vests, incapacitant sprays, and extendable batons.

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