Strikes could lead army to run prisons

London, April 01: Justice Secretary Ken Clarke is seeking to secure authorization from Downing Street to announce the winning bidders to take over the HMP Birmingham and HMP Buckley Hall in Rochdale as well as the new “super-sized” HMP Featherstone 2 in Wolverhampton.

The Prison Officers Association (POA) is now calling on prisons personnel to go ahead with a strict work to rule in case of a government announcement, expected before the end of the week.

This comes as 500 prison officers joined last week’s anti-cuts march by the Trades Union Congress.

The move was the staff’s first show of anger at the government’s policies and a suggestion that they could take more serious action if the government insists on its controversial plans.

POA chairman Colin Moss said the weekend participation of its members in the London rally was a “massive contingent” for the prison personnel as “it was the first time” they marched “alongside other trade unions”.

Any major industrial action could lead to a crisis as the 2,000 to 3,000 army soldiers who have received specialist training to run prisons over the recent months are deemed only enough to take the responsibility at a few detention centers.

The Ministry of Justice has announced they seek to “avoid any form of industrial action and we will continue to talk to the unions to do everything possible to achieve this”.

“However, given the risks and complexities involved in running prisons it is sensible and appropriate to review our contingency plans for dealing with widespread industrial action,” it added.