Prison staff strike over job cuts

REGIONAL prison officers at Rockhampton and Woodford correctional centres are among up to 1000 workers who have walked off the job statewide in response to expected job losses.

Police Minister Jack Dempsey announced plans to reduce the operation of prison industries - businesses run with prisoner labour - from seven to five days a week to cut costs.

The public sector union was planning to go to the Industrial Relations Committee on Thursday afternoon to seek orders against the Queensland Government for not ensuring proper consultation for these changes.

Together union secretary Alex Scott said it was unacceptable the government had announced the changes in the media instead of consulting workers.

He said he expected 50 to 100 job losses, including regional jobs, and believed between 800 to 1000 correctional offers were involved in the stop-work action.

Mr Scott said Rockhampton staff walked off the job on Thursday afternoon and would not return until Friday morning.

He said Maryborough was not engaged in the strike action because of internal issues but Woodford was expected to stop work just after 4pm on Thursday.

"Cleary, there's nothing more frontline than a correctional officer," he said.

"Clearly, regional jobs are going to be cut.

"Every day we find more and more what these cuts will mean to regional services.

"But we also think the centres will become less safe … and put community at risk.

"(Prison industries are) important for rehabilitation of prisoners and important in terms of ensuring stable environments in the correctional centres."

Premier Campbell Newman said the government was losing money running the prison industries seven days a week.

"By throttling it back to five days a week, we will be seeing savings which is just so important right now. So, that's why it's being done," he said.

Mr Dempsey said the reduction in hours was expected to save more than $1.7 million this financial year and almost $3.5 million each year in the following financial years.

He said he expected all industries staff would transfer to other correctional positions.

Joinery, metal and rags industries will go to five days a week at Capricornia Correctional Centre. There is no change to the hours of operation of the laundry.

Assembly, rags, joinery and metal fabrication industries will be reduced at Maryborough Correctional Centre.

Mr Dempsey said there would be no changes to the industry operating hours at Woodford Correctional Centre.

"Delivering skills and training to prisoners is important and this will continue," he said.

"It will impact some elements of the structured day and will mean adjustments to prisoner work and activity."



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