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PRISONS cannot be run “on the cheap and for profit,” outgoing TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady warned today.
Addressing the Prison Officers Association’s (POA) annual conference for the last time before she steps down at the end of the year, Ms O’Grady said that the union is “absolutely right” to resist austerity cuts and creeping privatisation in the sector.
To rapturous applause from delegates in Eastbourne, she said: “The incarceration of citizens must be the responsibility of the state, not an opportunity for private greed.”
Ms O’Grady accused Tory ministers of interference in the sector’s supposedly independent pay review body, as the union’s members demanded an end to real-terms cuts to wages.
“The government must get a grip on the recruitment and retention crisis in our prisons and give prison officers the decent pay rise they well and truly earned,” she said.
“If the pay review body cannot prove that it is genuinely independent, then it’s high time to bring back free collective bargaining.”
She backed Labour MP Grahame Morris’s Prisons Violence Bill, saying it is “time to protect the people that protect us.”
There have been about eight assaults on prison officers every day during the Covid-19 pandemic, official figures suggest.
Ms O’Grady also praised the work of POA members during the crisis, saying that it had been appreciated by the public, who understood the “true value of labour.”
In a reference to the “clap for keyworkers” initiative, she said: “When people were out on their doorsteps, they weren’t clapping private equity partners of hedge fund managers, they were clapping key workers.”
The TUC general secretary reiterated her call for as many trade unionists as possible to attend the the confederation’s New Deal for Workers rally in London on June 18.
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