Grahame Morris MP called for an increase in prison officer and firefighter pay in this afternoon’s Westminster Hall debate on Government worker and key worker pay.
Gower MP Tonia Antoniazzi led the debate, which was allocated by the Petitions Committee, after e-petitions 306845 and 328754 each received over 100,000 signatures.
In 2001 the Independent Prison Service Pay Review Body was set up to make recommendations on pay – recommendations that the Government agrees to follow in all but the most “exceptional circumstances”.
To encourage people to join and stay in the Prison Service, this independent body recommended a significant pay rise for Band 3 officers on “Fair and Sustainable” contracts – new “modernised” terms that have in effect created a two-tier workforce.
Five months ago, the Government said they would consider this recommendation and consult with the Prison Officers Association over its implementation, but on Thursday they rejected it completely, claiming it was “unaffordable”. They did this without any discussions with the POA at all; the POA intends to launch legal action against this decision.
The Prison Service is currently experiencing a crisis in recruitment and retention, especially of Band 3 officers, which is the main operational entry grade into the Service.
The Review Body calculates that the cost of these new recruits leaving after less than two years is around £30 million a year, calling this an inefficient use of public money. That’s why it recommends an immediate £3,000 uplift in their pensionable pay, which it hopes will stem the rising tide of resignations.
The Government claim this is unaffordable, yet they have not cited any exceptional circumstances to justify this, as required. Meanwhile, around £4 billion has been earmarked for a new generation of private prisons.
Mr Morris said, ‘Treating prison officers like this, and relying on draconian laws to deny them the right to stand up against such appalling treatment, is simply unfair and unsustainable, as officers vote with their feet and leave the Service they love, haemorrhaging knowledge and experience at a time when we need it most. I urge the Government to think again, get around the negotiation table with the POA, and come to an agreement that is ‘fair and sustainable’.’
The Easington MP is co-Chair of the Fire Brigade Union (FBU) Parliamentary Group which met virtually earlier this afternoon.
Firefighters had a 2 year pay freeze in 2010 and 2011, prior to the public sector pay cap of 1% was imposed for 6 years from 2012-2017.
Firefighters have continued to provide a 24/7 emergency service throughout the pandemic, and carried out additional activities to support vulnerable people and the NHS, under a national agreement negotiated by the FBU and fire employers.
The government – and the fire service employers – must now acknowledge this by delivering the vital investment our service needs. This investment is essential if the issue of declining real pay is to be addressed.