Staff at Cloverhill Prison in west Dublin went on a one-hour stoppage after lunch yesterday, resulting in inmates being kept locked in their cells for an extra hour, between 2pm and 3pm.
Officers are due to repeat the protest today — to be followed by two one-hour stoppages in Mountjoy Prison next Thursday and Friday in a similar protest.
The Irish Prison Service said it was “extremely disappointed” by the action, saying they and the Prison Officers’ Association had reached a conciliation agreement on Wednesday night.
Jim Mitchell, deputy general secretary of the POA, said the row was over health and safety as there wasn’t enough staff to work on the landings because they were pulled off to conduct other duties, such as prison escorts.
“The allocation of work, such as to PSEC [Prison Service Escort Corps], means we are often short on numbers, but management expect us to unlock a whole landing with fewer staff.”
He said this posed significant risks and pointed out that there had been two serious assaults in the last fortnight.
Mr Mitchell pointed out that the POA had served noticed of their industrial action on September 4.
He claimed that a week passed before the Prison Service responded and that at the “11th hour” a request came in to have talks at the Labour Relations Commission.
A final proposal was brought to members of the Cloverhill branch early yesterday morning, but local officers felt there wasn’t enough in it to warrant calling off the action.
In a statement, the Irish Prison Service said: “We are extremely disappointed with the decision of the Prison Officer’s Association to proceed with notified industrial action in the form of a one hour work stoppage at 2.00p.m. today at Cloverhill prison.
“The POA have chosen to proceed with this industrial action despite the fact that they have had access to the dispute resolution mechanisms in place under the Haddington Road Agreement.
The statement added: “Moreover, it is occurring after extensive engagements which have taken place this week at the Labour Relations Commission which resulted in the acceptance by both parties of a conciliation agreement drafted by the Commission late yesterday [Wednesday] evening.”
Mr Mitchell said that scheduled talks at the LRC would go ahead next Monday, in relation to Mountjoy Prison, and the following day in relation to Cloverhill.