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Custody officers who transport criminals between prison and court vote on strike action

Perth prison.
Perth prison.

Custody officers responsible for moving criminals between Scotland’s prisons and courts will begin voting today on whether to take industrial action over low wages and safety concerns.

An industrial action ballot of around 200 PCOs working for prisoner escort firm GeoAmey will run until January 24 over a pay deal which will result in staff receiving less than £10 per hour for the next two years.

Members of GMB Scotland are being asked to vote on whether to take industrial action against arrangements that will see many PCO’s paid £9.60 and £9.85 an hour on the basic rate for 2020 and 2021 respectively.

The pay deal was agreed between GeoAmey and another trade union, Community, which represents the majority of PCOs in Scotland.

The dispute comes against the backdrop of safety concerns over prison transport and challenges in the working environment, with industrial action potentially taking place as soon as mid-February.

GMB Scotland organiser Karen Leonard said: “PCOs act as a human shield between prisoners and the public but they are paid an absolute pittance for this vital public service.

“Their working environment brings challenges on a daily basis that the vast majority of us simply couldn’t handle, yet the vast majority are paid less than £10 an hour for this.

“The overall management of the court custody and prisoner escort contract has long been a source of concern and controversy and now workers are saying, ‘enough is enough’.

“GeoAmey’s claims that safety and security, continuous improvement, and respect and fairness are their principles – clearly this doesn’t apply to their PCOs.

“If the employer wants to avoid a damaging industrial action then they need to get around the table with GMB and negotiate a vastly improved pay deal for their long suffering employees.”

GEOAMEY and the Scottish Prison Service were both approached for comment.

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