Industrial fight looms as Serco offers Clarence prison officers second worst pay in the country
A pay offer from private prison operator Serco would see Clarence Correctional Centre prison officers become the second lowest paid prison officers in the country and without personal or parental leave, as the union warns of industrial action unless a serious offer is put on the table.
The Community and Public Sector of NSW is urging prison officers to reject Serco’s enterprise agreement, saying the $26.88/hour pay offer is well below the national industry average of $31.63, and only 3 cents above the lowest rate in Australia. The ballot opens on Wednesday and will close on Monday.
“We are urging Clarence prison officers to reject Serco’s measly offer,” said CPSU NSW assistant branch secretary Troy Wright. “Australia’s largest prison shouldn’t have the second lowest pay in the country – if needed we will take industrial action to secure pay that reflects the risk prison officers face each day.
“Serco is a billion-dollar, multinational company that spruiks itself as a ‘cost efficient prison management service’ – that seems to be corporate speak for ‘we pay our workforce peanuts’.”
Serco claims it’s pay offer is an aggregated rate that is inclusive of shift penalties. The union’s own calculations show Serco’s offer of $26.88/hour puts Clarence officers well below the $30.96 rate Serco pays at its Western Australian Acacia Prison, and the $32.70 that is used to pay at its Southern Queensland Correctional Centre, before the state government returned it to public hands.
“Under Serco’s deal prison officers won’t have access to personal or maternity leave, permanent night shift pay, or an allowance for being part of the emergency response team.
“Serco claims it is paying workers shift loading, however it’s clear when you compare it to what other prison officers earn in privately-run centres, even in Serco’s other Australian prisons, Clarence officer are being offered an unacceptably low rate.”
The union has been fighting for better conditions and pay for workers since the mega prison opened a year ago, warning the poor pay on offer has led to constant staff shortages and a high turnover rate.
“We have seen training classes start with 20 new prison officers finish up with just 10 graduating – that’s a 50% drop out rate because people see the risks involved and realise it’s not worth it for such poor pay.
“This is a maximum security prison – it should have experienced officers on the best pay. Instead, there is a revolving door of new officers coming in, while others have to work long hours just to cover all the shifts. It is just a matter of time until there is a serious incident and someone gets badly hurt or worse.
“Serco is a billion dollar multinational company, earning mega profits by squeezing every last cent out of its contracts. Paying low wages is part of the business model so they can clip even more of the ticket on big government projects.
“Our justice system should be run by the state in the public interest. It should not be operated by private providers whose sole motivation is making money. When you run a prison for profit your inclination will always be to cut corners. It means jails are understaffed and have fewer programs, which makes them more dangerous and violent.”
Further comment: Troy Wright 0488 373 209
More info: Suze Metherell 0412 867 084