Gareth Hadley has hit back at union claims that the Prison Service wasted taxpayers’ money by “defending inequality” in recent equal pay cases.
Last month, the service agreed to settle more than 3,300 equal pay claims, dating back to 1999, brought by the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS).
The PCS had been claiming for pay equality between mainly women working in support administrative roles and male prison officers. It accused the service of wasting more than £1m by defending its position.
But Hadley said: “We have not been defending inequality of pay and we argued cases we thought justified. We entered into negotiations with the PCS as soon as it indicated it was prepared to come to the table.”
The tribunal’s job evaluation expert ruled that administrators were comparable to prison officers.
Hadley admitted there was still “a degree of incredulity” among some staff at the decision. “We believe that the risks associated with being a prison officer are so fundamentally different to those faced by support staff that their [job] weights are not comparable,” he said.
Compensation to staff in the settlement will be about £35m. In addition, the service is also introducing new pay ranges at an annual cost of between £7m and £9m.
“We haven’t been needlessly wasting taxpayers’ money. We would have if we had agreed to the union’s demands and just chucked in the towel,” Hadley said.
The Prison Service now has the commitment of the PCS to enter into a new job evaluation exercise, which covers all roles below senior civil service level. “This scheme is critical to our future reward structures. We want our people rewarded fairly,” said Hadley.