Huge legal bid to bar prison officer strikes
PRISON union officials are taking on Crown lawyers in a revolving door-style battle in court over whether they can hold jail strikes.
Queensland Corrective Services has taken the Together Union to the Queensland Industrial Relations Court five times to stop officers walking out of jail to strike in the past two weeks.
Negotiations on enterprise bargaining have stalled after the government offered a 2.5 per cent pay rise and an "operational staffing" model which officers say is dangerous and could lead to jail breaks as absent officer posts are not filled.
Last Friday the QCS attempted to stop strikes at Lotus Glen in Cairns and Wolston jail in Brisbane and had 12 people on its side of the bar table as it took on two union officials.
While the court action was taking place an email from Commissioner Peter Martin was sent stating he hoped there would be a mutually satisfactory agreement over the EB and supported officers' rights to take protected industrial action.
"Queensland Corrective Services respects your right to participate in this action if you are a custodial employee and a member of the Together Union," he wrote.
"During this period of industrial action the safety and security of our facilities is of paramount importance and is what the community would expect from us as a top tier public safety agency.
"To ensure QCS capability to respond to security or critical incidents, we will need contingencies in place."
In a case in court on Monday, QCS won and officers at Townsville jail were forced to work.
"This is the start of what could be a long and complex process, so we are not able to predict the costs of approved legal representation before the QIRC at this time," a QCS spokeswoman said of the total costs of legal action arguing the matters.
"Queensland Corrective Services supports union members' right to take industrial action, however we need to … ensure the safety and security of our prisons.
"Where staff withdrawal is so significant that we cannot guarantee the safety of our remaining staff and prisoners, both during lockdown and during unlock on completion of the action, we have no choice but to take the matter to the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission."