Prison officers striking on health and safety grounds forced back to work

Under current laws, it is illegal for prison officers to strike or for anyone to induce striking action

A 24-hour protest staged by the nation’s prison officers on account of health and safety concerns, was cut short by the High Court after the justice secretary, Elizabeth Truss, took legal action to prevent the issue from spiralling out of control.

The prison officers involved in the protest were encouraged to strike by the Prison Officers’ Association (POA), which has said that the prison system in England and Wales is going through a “meltdown” process amid rising violence, which is creating health and safety issues.

Government council said POA was using the striking action to “impose their own limited regime” on the prison system in direct opposition to the Prison Service.

Health and safety fuelled striking action stopped following High Court legal action

Prison officers staged protests outside their jails. Photo: © Copyright Ian S

On Tuesday last week, Mr Justice Kerr granted the government an injunction to prevent any further strike action, which the justice secretary labelled “unlawful”, as she denounced POA for their “disgraceful” behaviour.

Under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, it is illegal for prison officers to carry out industrial striking action and for anyone to induce prison officers into industrial striking action.

Following the High Court ruling, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice said: “The injunction prevents the POA and any of its officials including local officials from inducing, authorising or supporting any form of industrial action by any prison officer which would disrupt the normal running of the prison service in England and Wales.”

During the 24-hour strike, prisoners were locked in their cells while striking prison officers protested outside their jails. Michael Spurr, chief executive of the National Offender Management Service, said this can lead to a “dangerous” environment.

Court proceedings in England and Wales were abandoned due to a lack of security, including that of Thomas Mair who is charged with the murder of MP Jo Cox.

Bob Neill, from the Justice Select Committee, joined Truss in her condemnation of POA, but he said that Truss should accept that there are problems within the prison system, including severe understaffing, which need to be addressed as a matter of urgency.

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MPs want cheaper employment tribunal fees

A group of MPs want the government to review the effectiveness of increased employment tribunal fees

A collection of British MPs are calling for a reduction in employment tribunal fees as they prevent many deserving cases from being heard due to a lack of finance.

The House of Commons Justice Committee has said that employment tribunal fees cause a “‘significant adverse impact” on employment law justice for some people across the United Kingdom.

For this reason, the committee and a group of MPs would like the government to “substantially reduce” the fees so that those wanting to seek justice for an employment law grievance have the chance to do so without incurring unbearable costs.

According to the figures, since the introduction of employment law tribunal fees in July 2013, there has been a 70% decrease in the number of cases being brought before the employment tribunal.

When the figures for the first three months of 2013 are compared with the first three months of 2015, equal pay cases  seem to have fallen by 58% and sex discrimination cases to have fallen by 68%.

A review of the increased employment tribunal fees should already have been presented by the Ministry of Justice. However, six months later, no review has been carried out and the group of MPs say that this is simply “unacceptable”.

The group, which includes MPs from multiple political parties, is calling for the Ministry of Justice to:

  • Increase the fee remission limit,
  • To decrease the fees for immigrants and asylum seekers,
  • To revoke the divorce and civil partnership fee increase (now £550),
  • And to offer more support to women with maternity and pregnancy claims.

Committee Chair Bob Neill, one of the MPs fighting against the fee increase, commented on the issue: “Where there is conflict between the objectives of achieving full cost recovery and preserving access to justice, the latter must prevail.”

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