Clarence prison officers reject Serco’s lowball pay offer, pursue industrial action

CPSU NSW

Clarence Correctional Centre prison officers have overwhelmingly rejected private prison operator Serco’s lowball pay offer, as the union now seeks industrial action to secure proper pay.

In a humiliating defeat for Serco, 82% voted “no” to the company’s offer of $26.88/hour, which would have made them the second lowest paid prison officers in the country. Serco’s rejected offer also failed to include allowances, paid parental leave, and sufficient personal leave.

“Australia’s largest prison shouldn’t be offering the second lowest pay in the country – these prison officers know their worth and rightly rejected Serco’s lowball pay offer,” said Community and Public Sector Union of NSW assistant branch secretary Troy Wright. “The Berejiklian government promised that Clarence Correctional Centre would provide well-paid, meaningful jobs for the region when it opened. Right now, Serco is paying prison officers less than they would earn in Bunnings.”

The union is now focusing on a protected action ballot order to permit industrial action, including the possibility of strikes, to force Serco to come to the bargaining table with a better offer.

“Serco is a Goliath of the global private prison industrial complex that makes its billions by squeezing every last cent out of contracts. But in Australia workers know they’re entitled to a fair day’s pay, and the CPSU NSW will support prison officers to secure proper pay for a dangerous job.”

Over the five day ballot, which concluded on Monday 19 July, of the 244 employees eligible to vote, 206 exercised their vote with 169 voting to not accept the agreement.

The union says Clarence Correctional Centre has had trouble attracting workers and has a low retention rate because the pay is so low.

“This is a maximum security prison – it should have experienced officers on the best pay. Instead, there is a revolving door of new, inexperienced officers coming in, and forced to work long hours just to cover all the shifts. It is just a matter of time until there is a serious incident and someone gets badly hurt or worse.

Clarence Correctional Centre is the largest employer in the region, and the union says better pay will deliver economic growth across the region.

“A bad deal for Grafton’s prison officers is a bad deal for the community – it means workers have less cash to spend in the local economy. An under resourced prison is an unsafe prison, and that has serious implications for creating more violent offenders when they return to their communities.

“Our justice system should be run by the state in the public interest. It should not be operated by private providers whose sole motivation is making money. When you run a prison for profit your inclination will always be to cut corners. It means jails are understaffed and have fewer programs, which makes them more dangerous and violent.”

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