Prison officers save to fund European Court of Justice action over right to strike

Prison officers have started to pay a levy to fund a court battle aimed at restoring their right to strike.

According to newspaper reports, the Prison Officers Association (POA) has been collecting a monthly levy of £1 from its 37,000 members to raise the cash needed to take the case to the European Court of Justice.

Prison officers had the right to strike removed by the Conservative government in 1994.

The POA wants to use the new European Union (EU) Charter of Fundamental Rights, part of the reform treaty agreed by leaders in Portugal last week, as the basis of a legal challenge.

Prime minister Gordon Brown told MPs earlier this week that Britain would keep opt-outs in the treaty on foreign policy, labour rights, tax and social security – the UK’s so-called ‘red lines’.

But Brian Caton, POA general secretary, told The Times: “We are not bothered about blue lines, red lines or yellow lines. Our members know a lot about liberty and freedom because they deny it to others – and they know they are being denied it themselves here.”

In August, 20,000 prison officers in England and Wales walked out in a row over pay. The Ministry of Justice eventually obtained an injunction in the High Court against the POA to prevent further strikes.

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