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Issue # 1401      4 March 2009

Prison sell-off aims to bust union

The NSW Public Service Association will be seeking an urgent meeting with the Premier after a senior bureaucrat admitted on Monday the proposal to privatise jails was part of a union-busting exercise.

NSW Corrective Services commissioner Ron Woodham told an Upper House Inquiry the privatisation of Parklea and Cessnock prisons had been ordered because the prison officers union was too strong.

He also listed a range of unsubstantiated allegations against prison officers, without offering the details to allow prison officers to respond.

NSW Public Service Association assistant general secretary Steve Turner said the admissions of the commissioner highlighted the need for the government to intervene in the issue and reconsider privatisation.

“What we have is a proposition that to break a union, the Commissioner wants to privatise a fundamental part of the justice system.

“If there are management issues, the PSA is happy to sit down and discuss them – but management of overtime is not a reason to hand over prisons to big private companies.

“It seems the commissioner has lost all perspective – his refusal to work constructively with the prison officers union is driving bad public policy.

“We hope the new minister can use today’s startling admissions as a circuit-breaker. He would not condone union-busting and he has the power to prevent this attack on workers rights,” Mr Turner said.

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