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Prisons officers sound warning: Address concerns now, or
The Prisons Officers Association is warning of an impending catastrophe if the needs of the officers are not met with urgency. President of the association Ceron Richards said during a press conference yesterday that they are trying to rectify a series of issues which include promotion exams, retraining, health and safety and payment of overtime wages.
“We have called this meeting to highlight some serious concerns about the Service Commission and the prisons promotions,” he said. Richards said the latest of their worries is the restructuring of the promotion exam from the rank of Prison Officer II to Assistant Superintendent. He said the officers are tested on various subjects such as bail, remission, investigations and punishment of inmates.
Richards said the association received notification from the Service Commission on Monday about the changes which gave them little opportunity to advise their membership. “The exam is to show that prisons officers are competent for duty. This is inadequate notice and it is impractical. No ordinary layman can sit this exam and the questions are integral for testing the competence and knowledge base of officers,” he said.
“We are advising that the Service Commission stick to the original structure and content of the exams without deviating. This would cause disruption and we have sent a strongly worded letter to the acting president of Trinidad and Tobago Timothy Hamel-Smith. It is unclear what the changes are and we have also written to the Service Commission,” he said.
“We will have a catastrophe on our hand. To date we have not been given any recognition,” he said. Richards said officers will react in the strongest possible way. He said former justice minister Herbert Volney had assured the prisons officers that they would no longer be considered the bastard child under any ministry.
“Yet we are still seeing issues of untimely payment and other issues including a lack of technical equipment. We are not saying they don’t have good intentions. We are hearing that National Security Minister Jack Warner wanted the police to sign for nine per cent. We see this will be a major source of dissatisfaction,” he said.
The Prisons Service had signed for five per cent in a Memorandum of Agreement on revised terms and conditions of employment with the Chief Personnel Officer on September 16, 2011. “We are happy for the police and they deserve that. Prisons officers should be treated the same way and our members signalled their intentions to deal with this matter because their integrity has been undermined,” he said.
“They feel as if they were fooled, undermined and given a raw deal at five per cent," he saids. Richards said because of the influx of sex offenders and other felons at the prisons, there has been an increase in threats to officers.
“We need to feel safe and a number of concerns are yet to be addressed and we need focus and emphasis on these issues.This will result in officers withholding their enthusiasm from work because they are pushed beyond their limit,” he said. He said the retraining of officers was also important.
“It appears the Government does not care about crime prevention in this country and not treating with the issues of critical urgency. The officers are not given motivation and are working in an environment that is already not conducive for good work,” he said.
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