The government has announced proposals to re-introduce powers to ban strikes by prison officers in England and Wales.
Justice minister Jack Straw aims to prevent a repeat of industrial action by the Prison Officers Association (POA) last August, where more than 20,000 officers walked out following a pay dispute.
The measures were tabled in an amendment to a Bill currently going through Parliament and would put prison officers under similar restrictions as police.
In a statement to the Commons, Straw said the government would introduce “a reserve statutory restriction on industrial action” that would only apply if all other forms of negotiation broke down.
Colin Moses, national chairman of the Prison Officers Association, accused the government of blackmail.
“Are we, as public sector workers, to be treated as second class citizens, used as bargaining chips to manage the economy and, of course, used as punch bags by those we look after?” he said in a statement.
Prison officers had the right to strike removed by the Conservative government in 1994.