Government proposals to improve pay and pensions for frontline staff have been endorsed by Prison Officers’ Association (POA) leaders.
The offer to prison staff, which the POA will now put to a membership ballot, followed talks with the Prison Service.
- a reduction in the retirement age by up to three years – from 68 to 65;
- an improved pay proposal covering the next three years;
- a retention and recognition package totalling £1,000.
The offer forms part of a wider drive to improve training and promotion prospects for all staff, and ensure prison officers are recognised and properly rewarded for the challenging work that they do.
Today’s announcement comes after the Justice Secretary announced a major package of reforms, including an additional £100m annually to boost the numbers of frontline staff. This will result in more than 2,500 additional officers joining the service by 2018 to increase safety and deliver vital reforms to cut reoffending.
The proposals discussed with the POA will mean governors are given greater freedoms to settle a wide range of issues – including staff, health and safety and the running of the prison – and manage employee relations locally with staff associations, helping to bring disputes to quick resolutions.
This delivers on a key reform as announced in the Prison Safety and Reform White Paper, which will see governors given greater authority to run their prisons in the way they think best – moving power from the centre. The Prison Service has also responded to a number of health and safety issues raised by the union.
Justice Secretary Elizabeth Truss said:
This agreement is a good offer which rightly recognises the hard work and dedication of officers across the country doing a tough job. I am pleased the POA’s leadership has endorsed the package, which forms part of a wider drive to improve training and promotion prospects for staff. We want to make sure that prison officers are properly recognised and rewarded for the challenging work they do.
If accepted by members this is a deal which will benefit thousands of prison officers who I hugely respect and for whom I want to see safe working conditions.
Since entering office, I have been clear that my number one priority is making prison places of safety and reform. I look forward to working closely with frontline staff to drive forward this ambitious reform programme.
The Prison Service remains in discussions with the Prison Governors Association over pay and pension arrangements in advance of submitting its evidence to the Prison Service Pay Review Body.
1: The proposals endorsed by the POA’s leadership was on offer before industrial action on 15 November and has not been improved.
2: Today’s agreement means:
Prison officers will be allowed to retire at 65 – three years ahead of the current state pension age – at no cost to them and with full pension benefits. The offer to current staff is fully funded by the employer.
The pay proposals outlined in the offer for bands 2-5 (uniformed staff) are:
- consolidated pay increases of between 0.5% and 1% (depending on terms) for each of the next three years, on top of the usual performance related pay increases;
- a further 0.5% unconsolidated payment next year for staff on ‘closed’ terms and conditions;
- a recognition and retention award for all staff in these bands of two £500 payments in 2017 and 2018.
3: Progress made on key reforms so far include:
Recruitment and retention:
- We have a plan to recruit 2,500 additional prison officers over the next two years. Our initial plan is recruit 400 of these additional staff by the end of March 2017. We are currently on track to do this.
- Boosting pay for hard-working staff by up to £4,000 at some of the most difficult-to-recruit prisons and those with high levels of staff-turnover, including HMP High Down, HMP Downview and HMP Coldingley;
- Appointing 75 mentors for new recruits to help them in their first few months in the job which we know can be a difficult time;
- Providing retention payments at sites with the greatest levels of staff turnover;
- We have been piloting targeted local recruitment initiatives at a number of sites so that governors can more easily recruit the people they need;
- We are putting in place from January plans for local recruitment activity at 28 sites where it has been challenging to recruit.
- A new Prison Officer apprenticeship scheme will launch next year and help increase diversity and widen the entry points into the Prison Service;
- Developing a new graduate scheme that will encourage people from a broader range of backgrounds to join the service;
- We are also creating a Troops to Officers scheme that will support people to join the Prison Service after leaving the military.
- New tests rolled out in September for New Psychoactive Substances across the estate;
- 300 dogs across the estate to detect New Psychoactive Substances
- Making the supply of psychoactive substance into prisons, and possession of them, criminal offences;
- New legislation so anyone found using drones to smuggle contraband into a prison can be given a sentence of up to two years.
Published: 1 December 2016
From: Ministry of Justice