Union slams 'grossly unfair' exclusion of prison officers from cost-of-living payment

Government only class prison staff as civil servants 'when it suits them', Prison Officers' Association says
Photo: PA/Alamy

By Tevye Markson

07 Jun 2023

The Prison Officers’ Association has slammed the government for not including certain prison staff in the one-off £1500 cost of living payment announced last week.

On Friday, ministers put forward an offer of a £1,500 one-off payment for civil servants in an attempt to end long-running industrial action over pay and recognise pressures faced by staff in 2022-23.

This offer, for civil servants in Grade 6 and below, is on top of the 2023-24 pay award of 4-4.5% for these delegated grades announced earlier this year.

But, according to POA, which represents prison officers, operational support officers and other prison workers, it excludes operational and non-operational prison staff as their pay, like senior civil servants, is decided by ministers based on recommendations by a review body.

The union’s national chair, Mark Fairhurst, called the decision “grossly unfair”, accusing the government of government classing prison staff as civil servants “when it suits them”.

Fairhurst said: “This government class us as civil servants when it suits them in relation to our ridiculous retirement age of 68 but fails to recognise us for the work we do in omitting us from this cost of living payment.

“We now have to wait to see if our pay review body will insist upon parity for all civil servants and recommend a similar payment for our remit group. This is grossly unfair and if it is not rectified, we will not hesitate to react in a way our membership expect.”

Steve Gillan, POA's general secretary, also questioned the government’s call.

“Whilst we come under the remit of the pay review body and not the civil service pay remit guidance, whenever there has been changes for civil servants, such as pension changes, recruitment freezes, pay freezes and all other terms and conditions we are included,” he said.

“However, when it comes to a one off payment suddenly, we are excluded.”

Gillan has written to the PSPRB, which makes recommendations to government on pay for operational and non-operational prison staff, requesting they take this new evidence on board.

The pay review body said in April it had concluded evidence sessions with all parties on the 2023-24 pay round and was aiming to submit its pay recommendations to government by June.

All prison staff, except for the very highest paid, received a pay award of at least 4% last year. The lowest paid staff also received up to £3,000 depending on their grade.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “Prison Service staff pay is determined by a separate independent pay review body. Their recommendations and the government’s response will be published in due course."

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