Page last updated at 07:28 GMT, Thursday, 8 May 2008 08:28 UK

Straw to address prison officers

Jack Straw at HMP Preston
Jack Straw will be addressing prison officers at a conference

Justice Secretary Jack Straw is to address prison officers just as legislation banning them from striking is due to reach the statute books.

The legal restriction is to be introduced as the Prison Officers Association ends a voluntary agreement to not take industrial action.

Mr Straw will be speaking at the POA's annual conference.

Prison staff walked out in August 2007 over a decision to give public sector workers a 2.5% pay rise in two stages.

The POA had been part of a no strike agreement but gave notice that it would be pulling out of the deal with the government from Thursday.

The Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill, which is due to become law the same day, would allow the justice secretary to ban strikes by prison officers, although Mr Straw has said this would be a reserve power.

According to BBC home affairs correspondent Rory MacLean, Mr Straw's speech is likely to be designed to placate rather than confront the union in order to avoid any further disruption to the crowded prison system.

An injunction, brought by the Ministry of Justice, was initially imposed by the High Court in 2007 to halt an illegal wildcat walkout by thousands of prison officers.

The court order, which ended on Thursday, was imposed to prevent the POA from inducing, authorising or supporting any form of industrial action which would disrupt the operation of the Prison Service in England and Wales.

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