Prison officers across NSW walk off the job for 24 hours - Daily Telegraph 2 Mar 2022 - Public Service Association

Prison officers across NSW walk off the job for 24 hours – Daily Telegraph 2 Mar 2022

As the majority of NSW battles a flood disaster, prison officers are walking off the job amid anger at Attorney General Mark Speakman’s response to the sentencing of an inmate.

Prison officers at jails across the state are walking off the job until tomorrow morning, furious at what they believe was a light sentence handed down to an inmate who took a guard hostage at knifepoint.

Officers at Mid North Coast jail near Kempsey, where the 2020 incident occurred, started the action after voting to go on a 24 hour strike on Wednesday morning.

It is understood officers at other prisons across NSW are also striking in solidarity.

The snap strike was sparked by a letter Attorney General Mark Speakman sent to an officer taken hostage by an inmate in 2020.

It is understood that prison officers were angered that Mr Speakman’s letter, received on Tuesday, failed to address concerns about the sentences handed to the inmate over two offences.

The strike comes on a day when the state is facing a major flooding disaster across much of the coast, and a week after Sydney’s train network was shut down last week amid industrial action from rail workers.

Corrections Minister Geoff Lee said he was “extremely disappointed” at the strike decision.

“I am extremely disappointed in the conduct of the Public Service Association today, on a day when the rest of the state is focused on the natural disaster unfolding along our coastline,” he said.

“The last thing our state needs right now is unions walking off the job when our communities are experiencing one of the worst flooding disasters in our state’s history. I urge the PSA to reverse this decision, stop this action immediately and work with government to ensure our staff and our community are kept safe.”

However, Dr Lee said he had sympathy for prison officers’ concerns with current sentencing guidelines but said his hands were tied in fixing the issue.

“Personally I understand why they’re doing it but we have a process that we have to go through,” he said.

“Prison officers should be treated just like any other first responders”

It’s understood Dr Lee wants recommendations from the sentencing council enacted which would allow tougher sentences to be handed out to inmates who assault officers.

by James O’Doherty, The Daily Telegraph’s State Political Editor. He joined The Telegraph in 2020 from Sky News.

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