Wednesday 20 February 2008
The POA has withdrawn from the JIRPA, the agreement which was signed ‘voluntarily’ in 2005. However, the POA remains bound to this agreement until 8 May 2008. The Government is now using the Criminal Justice & Immigration Bill because it fears that talks will not conclude before 8 May and that the POA would undertake industrial actions. The Court is currently investigating the legality of the actions that took place on 29 August. To the question whether the POA will indeed plan industrial actions the POA answers that it does not rule anything out and does not rule anything in. The POA does not enjoy any rights and has no instruments to express its dissastisfaction with regard to for instance pay and working conditions etc. There is no such thing as a structured social dialogue, as we know it in Belgium and the Netherlands. In those countries, the court only comes into play when all other negotiation instruments are exhausted (social dialogue).
For prison officers in the UK the right to strike is absolutely prohibited. POA’s excellent barrister (Queens Counselor) repeatedly referred to international conventions and European Charters that are blatantly being breached by the UK government. The barrister from the Prison Service stated that these conventions and charters are completely irrelevant. We do not need to mention that this is in line with the course and attitude of the current UK government. The compensatory measures that were promised to the POA at the time of signing the JIRPA have appeared to be utterly unsatisfactory.
To Eurofedop it is clear that the POA case illustrates deeper, more fundamental problems in the social structures in the UK. The ILO judgement in 2005 was mild for the UK government. It did acknowledge, however, that adequate compensatory guarantees did not exist. A new case for the ILO will most likely result in unfavourable judgements for the UK government.
On Monday the judges will rule in this case. In the meantime Eurofedop already started its preparations for 1) the Trade Council Justice taking plance on April 4th and 2) Conference on trade union rights taking place in October in the UK.