Union begins talks on Goulburn Jail benchmarking

Union officials convened again at Goulburn Jail on Wednesday morning ahead of another round of meetings. L-R: Prison Officers Vocational Branch country vice-chairman Thor Sutherland, Public Service Association senior industrial officer Julie Bond, POVB acting assistant secretary Andrew Brown, POVB secretary Darren King and POVB vice-chair Jason Charlton.
Union officials convened again at Goulburn Jail on Wednesday morning ahead of another round of meetings. L-R: Prison Officers Vocational Branch country vice-chairman Thor Sutherland, Public Service Association senior industrial officer Julie Bond, POVB acting assistant secretary Andrew Brown, POVB secretary Darren King and POVB vice-chair Jason Charlton.

Union officials say they’re feeling a little more positive following a meeting with Corrective Services officials about staffing levels at Goulburn Jail.

Some 200 staff received a briefing on Tuesday from Corrective Services assistant commissioner Kevin Corcoran about benchmarking at the facility.  The Prison Officers Vocational Branch maintains management wants to cut 90 officers from the main part of the jail, diverting some to the new high risk management and multi-purpose centres. The union is also angry about the deletion of 19 senior correctional officer positions.

“There were some angry prison officers at the meeting,” POVB vice-chairman Jason Charlton said.

The union is arguing that staff cuts will have an “unacceptable” impact on officers’ safety and security.

Mr Charlton said officers pushed their case with Mr Corcoran and scored some considerations.

“Our proposal is for them to consider the jail as one, not as two (including HRMU and the multipurpose unit), with all staff working throughout so they don’t deplete security in one section to shift it to another. Our main concern is that it would jeopardise safety,” he said.

“They’ve said now that they might consider changing the structure. There were a lot of questions answered although there was also a lot of skepticism.”

Mr Charlton told The Post that negotiations became more positive as the afternoon progressed. But he did not believe the Department would budge on the senior correctional officer positions, which had been abolished in other benchmarked jails throughout NSW. Ten had already left Goulburn Correctional Centre and had not been replaced.

“There should be 19 there and we will fight to keep them,” he said.

Under the changes, eight assistant superintendents would also be made redundant.

The Department has also introduced a cyclic roster, which the union says gives less flexibility for families than the current preferential model. Mr Charlton said some flexibility remained but only if staff could arrange a shift swap.

“It worked a certain way for 20 years and now they’ve changed it. It’s upset a lot of people,” he said.

“It’s an attack on single mothers. They’re the ones we’re hearing concerns from.”

But the union has taken some comfort from negotiations, which Mr Charlton said became more positive as the afternoon progressed.

Goulburn Jail is one of the last to be benchmarked. Corrective Services says the process is aiming for greater efficiency, better standards and accountability. Three months of consultation on the proposed changes will now begin.

“We’ve taken a little bit of confidence out of the consultation. It’s a state organisation and they want to achieve savings. We’ll push for the best outcome for our members,” he said.

“Their safety is our greatest concern. We want officers going home to their families without fear of being assaulted by inmates.”  

A Corrective Services spokeswoman said Tuesday’s discussions involved “robust and productive discussions between managers and staff.”

“We have welcomed ideas from our officers on the ground, which has resulted in creative new ideas about how the complex could operate,” she said in a statement.

“One idea we are actively discussing was put forward by complex staff and the union in which staffing benchmarks would largely stay the same but the two prisons on the complex - Goulburn Correctional Centre and Supermax - would operate from one roster.

“This would give greater flexibility to deploy and rotate staff across complex according to operational need.

“This is a very promising start to the process at Goulburn and we look forward to these constructive discussions continuing and a final local proposal being developed.”

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