Thursday 18 July, 2019

Prison officers have had enough

HMP Dodds.

HMP Dodds.

Prison officers are seeking legal redress as it relates to the 1982 amendment of the Prison Act which they say is preventing them from joining trade unions.

Attorney-at-law Gregory Nicholls says the officers are tired waiting for this matter to be addressed and have sought his assistance in this regard.

Speaking during a news conference held at the NUPW Headquarters in Dalkeith earlier today, Nicholls said the constitutional motion was filed on March 1, 2017 and a trial date has been set for September 18, 2017.

The officers, he reiterated, are frustrated since their grievances are not being addressed, among them appointments, garnishing of vacation leave and working conditions.

“Earlier this year the prison officers would have written through their attorney-at-law to the Attorney General and Minister of Home Affairs to highlight a number of concerns that they had - issues that have not been resolved. A lot of them concern lack of appointments, non-payment for temporary prison officers and substitute officers and garnishing of vacation leave which, in my view, constitute a number of unlawful acts on the part of the management authority of the prisons,” Nicholls outlined.

He said during last year’s Annual General Meeting of the association the media was evicted meeting. According to him, since then, the Prison Officers Association has not been unable to convince the Ministry of Home Affairs or the Prison Officers Authority to try to resolve any pending issues.

Nicholls explained that he is speaking on behalf of the officers because they cannot do it themselves.

“We have a law in Barbados that prohibits a section of the public service from representing themselves. They cannot join trade unions in Barbados; it will be unlawful for them to join the trade unions and unlawful for the trade union to represent them in any of the issues,” he expounded.

What he says is devastating is that none of the issues that are affecting the officers can be brought by the Prison Officers Association to the management of the prison, since the Act prohibits them from addressing, as an association, matters of staff, appointments and discipline, although they are an established association.

“So as a result of the statement to its membership by the President of the Association, the Ministry of Home Affairs, and I am implicating directly the Governor General and Minister of Home Affairs, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Superintendent of Prisons, have taken the view that none of the concerns that touch and affect the lives of officers will be addressed,” Nicholls contended.

He said since nothing is being done the only mechanism available for use is the courts to have an audience “because we are still firmly of the view that we live in a society that is governed by the law.”

According to Nicholls, prison officers have been "humiliated and devastated" by this treatment and, he emphasised, “Enough is enough!”

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