Page last updated at 19:38 GMT, Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Prison officers' strike is over

Officers on a picket line outside HMP Liverpool
Staff at HMP Liverpool staged two days of unofficial strike action

Unofficial strike action among hundreds of prison officers in England has been called off after officers at HMP Liverpool agreed to return to work.

Hundreds had been on a picket line outside HMP Liverpool on a second day of unofficial action over claims of bullying and harassment.

They were joined by staff from jails in Lancashire, Cheshire and Dorset who walked out on Tuesday.

The Prison Officers' Association (POA) confirmed officers would be returning.

About 150 officers from Risley Prison, near Warrington, joined in the action as well as staff at Lancaster Castle, Lancaster Farms and Verne prison.

'Bullying and harassment'

Mark Freeman, deputy general secretary from the POA, said they had now all returned to work.

Mr Freeman said the POA had wanted a meeting with the Prisons Board "to discuss the bullying and harassment by the senior managers at HMP Liverpool". That meeting will now take place on Monday.

He told BBC News: "The Prison Service, after 25 hours, gave us what we asked for on the very first hour of this walkout.

Ex-prisoner Andrew Mayes said inmates were setting fire to their covers

"If they had given it to us then [in the first hour] none of the other prisons would have walked out."

Brendan Barber, general secretary of the TUC, will also attend the meeting.

Phil Wheatley, National Offender Management Service (NOMS) Director General said the strike was "unnecessary, unsafe, and did not befit members of a disciplined service"

"It put staff who remained at their posts and prisoners at risk," said Mr Wheatley.

"The action taken by staff at Liverpool and elsewhere was completely unjustified - there are a number of ways that staff in the Prison Service can raise a grievance or appeal a decision.

"The governor of Liverpool made it clear that he is prepared to discuss the issues, and we believe that the actions taken so far by management at Liverpool are appropriate."

'Going off'

On Wednesday morning HMP Liverpool was being run by 20 officers and 30 managers, and police patrols outside the building were increased.

Prisoners were notified of a "disruption to regime" by notices, signed on behalf of the prison's governor Alan Brown.

One inmate contacted BBC Radio Merseyside from inside the Walton jail, saying that his fellow prisoners had been growing restless.

"It's going to end up really going off in here," said the man, who did not give his name.

"We're locked up all the time. We can't get to see our solicitors, we can't get to see no-one."

The officers' dispute centres on an employment tribunal brought by one of the POA's members against the Prison Service in September.

It said both the governor of the prison and a deputy governor were "heavily criticised" by the chairman of the tribunal.

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