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Unite demands prison maintenance contracts be taken back in-house

FAILED prison maintenance contracts must be taken back in-house after two workers were sacked for raising safety issues at “squalid” Liverpool prison, the Unite union demanded today.

Unite members John Bromilow and Harry Wildman, who had a combined service of 45 years, were hired by contractor Amey in June 2015 after the government privatised prison maintenance contracts.

The pair raised safety concerns in July 2016 after Amey made changes to their working practices which meant that they were required to work alone in secure areas of the prison.

Having had a grievance rejected, they spoke to the prison governor and told him they were going to raise their concerns with the Health and Safety Executive.

The governor immediately informed Amey and the workers were sacked for bringing the company into disrepute.

As reported in the Star, an employment tribunal has ruled that the two whistleblowers were unfairly dismissed.

Unite national officer for the prison service Jim Kennedy said: “This was a shameful way to treat long-standing workers who voiced immediate safety fears.

“Amey’s hamfisted response demonstrates they are unfit to operate such a sensitive and complex service.
 
“This case demonstrates the government’s folly of privatising this vitally important public service.

“Since taking over these contracts, the private contractors have been fixated in cutting staff and other methods in order to boost profits.

“This is having a significant impact on the safety of all workers in the prison system … and these contracts need to be permanently brought back in-house at the earliest opportunity.”

Amey was awarded the contract for 60 prisons in the north and Midlands by the government, while now-bankrupt Carillion won the contracts for the rest of England.

Huge concerns remain about the contracts, including backlogs in urgent repairs that have been cited as a cause of increasing prison violence and disorder that puts staff in danger.

In January, inspectors found “squalid” conditions in Liverpool prison, with rat infestations, drugs, violence and squalor.

An Amey spokesman claimed: “Nothing is more important to us than the safety of our employees,“ adding that the company “regularly reviews” risks faced by its maintenance team.

Acknowledging that there were problems with “basic issues such as cleanliness, decent conditions and safety” in Britain’s prisons which must be addressed, a Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “Our private-sector partners play an important role in achieving this and will continue to do so in the future.”

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