Prison officers 'overwhelmingly' reject Government offer on pay and pensions
Prison officers have “overwhelmingly” rejected a new deal on their pay and pensions just weeks after ministers were forced into an embarrassing climbdown.
The Ministry of Justice agreed with the Prison Officers Association (POA) earlier this month to a reduction in the retirement age to 65 and a £1,000 “recognition and retention” cash bonus for staff over the next two years.
But members of the union turned down the package by a margin of two to one, despite the POA endorsing the proposed agreement.
General secretary Steve Gillan urged the Government to return to the negotiating table to address the concerns of its members.
"In the ballot return 65.7% of our members rejected their offer with 33.7% in favour along with 0.6% spoilt votes," he said.
"I urge Government not to ignore the views of our members."
A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said: "We are disappointed that proposals on reform, pay and pensions, which were endorsed by the Prison Officers Association leadership, have not been accepted.
"Progress has been made on health and safety grounds and we will continue to hold talks with the POA. The Justice Secretary intends to meet with the leadership in the new year.
"As the Justice Secretary has made clear, she has huge respect for prison officers and is committed to making prisons places of safety and reform."
The proposed deal came amid mounting concerns over safety in prisons across England and Wales from staff shortages and growing violence in jails.
It would have meant prison officers can retire at the age of 65, rather than 68, with full retirement benefits.
It also planned additional pay increases of between 0.5% and 1% for each of the next three years, plus two £500 “recognition and retention” payments in 2017 and 2018.
Earlier this month the Government was forced to launch emergency legal action to stop a strike by prison officers as the battle for improved conditions reached its peak.
The number of prison officers has fallen by approximately 7,000 since 2010, while the number of prisoners has risen slightly over the same period.
Justice Secretary Liz Truss in November announced an £104m recruitment drive to hire an extra 2,100 prison officers.