Thousands of prison officers are back at work today, following a 24-hour national strike held yesterday.
Prison officers across England and Wales launched a surprise strike over a pay dispute after refusing an offer which they said represented an increase of only 1.9%.
The Prison Officers’ Association (POA), the union body representing the officers, said the walkout followed a recent ballot which found that most of its 28,000 members were in favour of strike action – the first in its 68-year history.
The Ministry of Justice obtained an injunction in the High Court against the POA, which it expected would lead to a return to work. However, most of the 20,000 prison officers remained on strike for several hours, until a call to halt proceedings following a pledge from the government to renew talks.
Lord chancellor and secretary of state for justice, Jack Straw, said yesterday, the strike was “deeply regrettable and wholly unjustifiable”.
He said: “We have been actively trying to engage with the POA through talks and regular meetings, and yet this action came without warning. Indeed at my request yesterday my office asked for a meeting with senior officers of the POA,” Straw added.
A spokesman at the Ministry of Justice said: “The prison service is well prepared for such contingencies and has well-rehearsed methods for dealing with such eventualities. There is no risk to the safe running and good order of prisons.”
The Police Federation of England and Wales set up the online petition to stop the Home Office from “undermining” the agreed 1979 Edmund-Davies arrangements for negotiating police pay.