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THE THULE INCIDENT

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MAU-MAU,HAS IT RETURNED?A VERY AFRICAN ELECTION

THE SHAPE OF JUSTICE

POTTING THE 8 BALL,COSMICALLY

THE TURN OF A SCREW BY A MAN OF STRAW

THE GREEN POLICE

ONE BASH TO MANY,A WILDCARD

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THE TURN OF A SCREW BY A MAN OF STRAW

The early morning call in certain “Exclusive” hotels did not happen today, the “Doorman” did not perform his duties. No one “Checked in” or out and the “Manager” had to turn his hand to the lowliest duties in the “Establishment” for the first time since 1939.

Today was the day that the “Screws” turned, the Prison Officers or “Warders” chose not to report for work, it was a strike. A withdrawal of labour an industrial action but Strike like no other.

Nine years ago an agreement between the Government of New Labour and the Prison Officers Association [POA] forbade the Prison officers to take strike action, for its part the government undertook to review pay and conditions annually and award such pay rises as were deemed correct and necessary to keep pace with inflation and ensure the fidelity of Prison Officers. They were not the only government employees to enter into such agreement’s, Nurses and Police Officers have a similar understanding.
This year the “Award” was 2.5% but only 1.5% was to be paid by April and the other 1% was held back until October. The agreement, it was felt [by the POA] was being manipulated by government. Pay however was not the only concern working conditions too had deteriorated with little or no action being taken by the “Employer” in this case The Home Office to address the problems which, if the same blatant disregard for “Risk management” had taken place in the “Private sector” would have resulted in proceedings being taken against the employer.  

The Pay issue actually brought matters to a head and for one day, yes 24 hours the POA withdrew is members in contravention of their no strike agreement, though they had given notice that a strike would happen they did not specify when it would take place.

This morning the POA called a one-day strike from 7 am Wednesday 29th August to 7 am on Thursday 30th August. Prisoners remained in their cells, no court appearances by those on remand took place, and there were no new admissions and no discharges. Penal servitude came to an abrupt halt. It was in fact a “Short sharp shock”
The government Minister responsible for prisons took immediate action, a new departure for the “Justice Minister” because if his office had been as quick to rectify the obvious failings of the prison system the strike would not have happened.
The Minister, in this case Jack Straw sought an injunction from the High Court to declare the strike illegal and force the POA to abandon the strike. The injunction was granted leaving the somewhat deaf Minister saying that the way to a solution to their grievance was through negotiation. All very well if you have two parties to an agreement that are prepared to honour it but when there is only one then he outcome could be a strike by employees who feel they have no other option. Incidentally the Justice Minister was, once upon a time nine years ago The Home Secretary and as such responsible for prisons.

That the Justice Minister was able to obtain the injunction came as no surprise to the Prison Officers standing outside all of the prisons in the country, they expected it. They even expected the speed with which it happened, just five hours. It can be done if there is a tame High Court judge waiting around doing nothing that day to give the required response.

What was not expected, at least by the Minister was the reaction to the injunction. It advised that it should be inserted into a fundamental orifice though not in so many words and the strikers decided to maintain the strike until 7 am the following morning as planned.

That was when the threats began, intimidation by another name. Outside at least two prisons the striking Prison Officers were given letters advising that they were in breach of their contracts of employment and risked legal proceedings and imprisonment if they did not return to work immediately.

In a few short hours the very fabric of government was threadbare, the legal remedy thwarted by disregard and a Minister rendered ineffectual by something that was once the bedrock of his own political party, industrial relations.

Most of the prisoners will remain “Banged up” until 7 am on Thursday and the government retired to consider the remains of the day but if they are careless enough to disregard the warning signs of this 24 hour hiccup they should remember that the nurses have a no strike agreement too and they have recently rejected a pay offer as derisory. The ranks of the Police forces also have a no strike agreement and they are unhappy with both pay and conditions.
This action by the POA may well be a precursor to widespread unrest among those whom we all take for granted, Prison Officers, Police and Nurses.

JP.


Posted: August 29, 2007 



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