Arthur Gorrie prison staff return to work with concerns unanswered

Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre staff involved in a dispute with their employer, Queensland government contracted prison operator GEO, have been allowed back to work this week following industrial action over the weekend.

GEO escalated action against workers with a lockout of 48 staff on Saturday, after 42 were denied entry to the prison and pay on Friday.

Staff may have returned to work this week but, United Voice Coordinator Damien Davie told 4ZZZ, “under the same conditions [that existed] prior to them raising the issues. As recently as last night we were short staffed on the floor.”

Tensions have escalated recently over safety concerns within the centre driven by understaffing and overcrowding.

Prisons across the board in QLD are currently sitting at over 120% capacity, up from 114% in September last year.

Arthur Gorrie is the current remand centre for South-East QLD with capacity for 890 male prisoners, however, as of May this year, held 1173.

In a statement released last week, Davie said the prisoner-to-officer ratio was too high and that workers were calling for more staff to deal with the pressure of overcrowding.

“Prison officers at Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre can find themselves on the floor alone with up to 62 prisoners. This is putting staff at terrible risk and they will no longer take it. It’s only a matter of time before one of our members gets seriously hurt or killed.”

GEO Group spokesperson Ken Davis said he could not imagine a situation where one officer was left alone with 60 prisoners, and said ratios in the jail were established by Queensland Corrective Services.

A spokesperson for QCS said GEO was responsible for the operation of the prison and it would not be interfering with the dispute.

Inmates were kept in lockdown during the weekend lockout, with ice-cream suggested as a solution for any safety risk posed to staff or inmates once normal operation resumed.

"I don't know what (the prison manager) will do when he lifts it ... we can go out and buy them ice-creams or something like that for their dessert," Mr Davis said.

But, according to Davie, ice-cream is not going to make the problem go away.

“Officers are going to take action again if GEO doesn't come to the table and fix these issues. We may well end up in the situation where GEO locks officers out again, which means inmates will be locked in their cell and, you know, that’s bad news for everyone.”

 

Image: United Voice Queensland Facebook. United Voice Queensland at Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre.

 

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