Low pay and an ageing workforce are creating a maintenance “time bomb” in Britain’s prisons, construction union UCATT has warned.
The union represents 4,000 locksmiths, carpenters, electricians and plumbers who work in Britain’s prisons. It claims they are seeing their pay fall far behind that of the private sector.
Highly qualified craftsmen earn £5,000 per year less than those in the private sector, UCATT claims.
The union said the Prison Service is finding it difficult to retain and recruit qualified staff, with many posts left unfilled for months. Much of the current maintenance workforce will retire in the next 10 years.
In some jails, more than 70% of maintenance staff are aged over 51, while none are below 30.
Maintenance staff have also reported being attacked or threatened by prisoners.
Alan Ritchie, UCATT general secretary, said: “The low pay of highly skilled and dedicated staff in the Prison Service is a disgrace.
“If the Home Office once again put their heads in the sand and ignore the problem, then the situation can only deteriorate.”
UCATT is expected to submit a pay claim for 2007 in the next fortnight.