The Assistant Commissioner and Director of Custodial Corrections have agreed to meet this week with 200 prison officers who walked off the job at Goulburn’s Supermax prison on Friday, 26 March.
Chair of the Prison Officers’ Vocational Branch of the Public Service Association of NSW, Nicole Jess, said the officers were back at work on Monday, 29 March and hoping to start discussions before Wednesday, 31 March to address concerns about staff shortages and management at the jail.
Ms Jess said the union would return to the Industrial Relation Commission if this week’s negotiations were unsuccessful.
“They will need to come to the party with significant solutions,” she said.
Staff at Goulburn Correctional Centre have been on the brink of strike action for months after losing senior ranking officers and the squashing of an alleged assault on three officers by an inmate.
The inmate, charged with four counts of assaulting a law enforcement officer, was found not guilty because the officers hadn’t applied the correct force. This ruling highlighted the need for senior ranking officers at the jail.
Ms Jess said Corrective Services NSW had transitioned the assistant superintendent rank in jails to functional manager roles, cut staff numbers and made positions casual.
She claimed the changes have led to fewer senior ranking officers in Goulburn’s jail and more young recruits who were happy to take on casual contracts.
“We have a lot more new recruits who are quite young and I would say, lacking in life experience, than we had when there were more permanent positions,” said Ms Jess.
“It takes a certain person with a certain skill set to be able to do what we do. You wouldn’t casualise judges or the police so why would you casualise the back end of the judicial system? Especially when you are holding large amounts of maximum-security inmates who are volatile.”
However, Corrective Services NSW argued there were almost 240 permanent ongoing custodial staff at Goulburn Correctional Centre which is more than 70 per cent of all staff.
Ms Jess said this is probably true, but that the positions of 15 correctional officers, one senior officer and one functional manager remained vacant.
“We’ll be asking for those positions to be filled during this consultation process. The other problem we have is that a lot of people are off on workers compensation and we can’t fill those positions with permanent people. If we’ve got 15 vacancies and workers comp on top of that, it increases the issues we have with a lack of staff,” she said.
Officers at Goulburn’s prison also said they have no confidence in the Governor.
“They will be speaking to the Assistant Commissioner about the issues they’ve been having with the manager and he’s going to have to come up with some sort of resolution that appeases his side and our side. If that’s not happened by Wednesday, we’ll take it back before the Industrial Relation Commission,” Ms Jess said.