Prison officers slam Govt over grievances

“THE Prison Service is being treated as though it is a Ponzi scheme!” These were the words of Ceron Richards, president of the Prison Officers’ Association while standing outside the Golden Grove Prison in Arouca yesterday morning. Richards had a news conference to highlight the grievances of prison officers, and promised that he would be having one every other week, should the needs of his membership not be addressed. Among the concerns were salary negotiations, unpaid overtime from since 2011, dormitories not being properly equipped with facilities, and the fact that private companies continue to receive contracts to transport prisoners all while the prison service was waiting to be given its own mobile fleet. “The State wants to talk about DSS (Drugs Sou Sou) in La Horquetta. Now I don’t know the details on that issue, be-cause I am not a part of it. But the words used repeatedly are ‘Ponzi scheme’. Now I know what that is. It’s when you input minimum effort into something, yet expect maximum rewards, often from the efforts of others. That is what is going on with the prison service right now. “It’s a Ponzi scheme. There exists so much needs that officers have, that need to be tended to, that continuously go ignored by the State. By governments. “Meanwhile we have private companies receiving incomprehensible contracts for situations which the service out to be outfitted to handle on its own. These are the Ponzi schemes I believe the Prime Minister and his Cabinet ought to pay attention to,” Richards said. He also called on the Minister of Finance Colm Imbert to begin negotiations with prison officers over salaries. “We are still calling for clarification on negotiations. We are three periods removed from our last agreement. And they are saying that the economy is not in a favourable place right now so they can’t negotiate. Well I would like to remind the Government and Mr Colm Imbert (Minister of Finance) that the negotiation process is a legal process. A process we are entitled to by law and the minister has no duty in law to circumvent, undermine, or remove this process. And by even refusing to meet with us, and simply come to the table and hear us out, he is undermining the integrity of the negotiation process. And we have been instructed that this in itself could be deemed an illegal act. And we want the Government to know, we will not tolerate such action against us from the State,” Richards said. He noted that it was ironic that the Government would be calling on citizens to adhere to the laws of the land, when, by failing to try to negotiate with the Prison Service, they may be breaching those very same laws.