74 LOTUS Glen correctional officers engaged in yet another show of strength last Thursday as they participated in a strike lasting 12 hours.
The strike is part of an ongoing state-wide dispute between prison officers and Queensland Corrective Services (QCS) over wages and entitlement cuts. Together union delegate Jason Rees said officers and the department have been unable to come to an agreement despite nine rounds of negotiations.
“Together union has stated that we will continue and escalate our rolling industrial action until we come to a fair settlement,” he said. “We’re well aware that this could take months, but it’s something we’re willing to endure because improved working conditions are desperately needed in our prisons.”
Mr Rees said while a 2.5 per cent wage increase has been offered to officers, the cuts to entitlements such as longer hours without meal breaks and an operational staffing plan will prove
“They want us to move from centre to centre on a whim that includes shift changes on 24 hours’ notice as opposed to 72,” he said. “So now we’ve ended up fighting about the entitlements being taken from us rather than what we initially asked for.”
Another issue raised by Mr Rees and Together union was the alternative option presented by QCS, which was a pay increase to the tune of 6 per cent. “That is correct that we have been offered a 6 per cent increase, however in doing so we would be going back three years to an old pay classification level system where they had point barriers,” he said.
“So as far as we’re concerned that is just going backwards.” In addition, Mr Rees said the entitlements being taken from officers endanger them in the workplace. “As they try to casualise the workforce, the workload increases at the same rate the violence increases,” he said. “And this is in line with the overcrowding in prisons that the government has failed to do anything about.”
While this disagreement could be seen across the state for some time to come, Mr Rees pointed out that Lotus Glen officers are using the displays of industrial action as an opportunity to give back to the community. “We make sure when we have industrial action that we put a bit of time towards charity,” he said. “Last week it was helping out at the Mareeba Men’s Shed, and today we have raised hundreds of dollars to go towards the Indie Rose Foundation, which is “helping sick kids, supporting families”.