Wednesday, 11 June 2008

prison officer’s leader launched a scathing attack on a Labour MP with three jails in her constituency.

Colin Moses, the National Chairman of the Prison Officer’s Association,
accused Roberta Blackman-Woods of “betraying” union members.
But the Durham City MP strongly denied the claim and accused the union
leader of trying to put pressure on the Government by targeting MPs in
marginal constituencies.
The attack follows the GMB union’s decision just days ago to stop giving
financial support to Dr Blackman-Woods.
She is one of 30 Labour MPs set to lose thousands of pounds a year for
allegedly failing to support the union.
Now the POA has also heavily-criticised Dr Blackman-Woods and warned her
that members could desert her at the next election if she does not do more
to help officers.
Dr Blackman-Woods has three prisons in her constituency – Durham,
Frankland and Low Newton. They employ around 1,500 prison officers and
support staff.
She had a majority of just over 3,000 in the 2005 election, when she took
over from Labour MP Gerry Steinberg.
Mr Moses said: “She has betrayed the trust put in her by prison staff.
“She is an MP with one of the largest POA memberships in her constituency
and she has shown scant regard for the views of the POA.
“We have asked to meet her on several occasions but those meetings have
been cancelled. Her silence on prisons has been deafening.
“Our pay claim of 2.5 per cent has been reduced to 1.9 per cent. You would
expect her to come out in full support of prison staff.
“Instead, she voted with the Government in introducing anti-trade union
laws against the POA.
“Under section 127 of the Criminal Justice Bill, prison officers are now
banned from taking industrial action.
“This has incensed many POA members who have loyally supported the Labour
MP over the years.
“If she wants their support between now and the election time, she will
have to start showing support for the prison officers in her
Dr Blackman-Woods said: “Mr Moses’ comments couldn’t be further from the
“I work really hard to represent the views of the POA. Unions can lobby
MPs like anyone else but, at the end of the day, we have to do what we
think is the right thing.
“The only reason why I can think they are picking on me is because I’m in
a marginal seat and they can get at the Government.
“It is a shame Mr Moses has launched an attack on me seemingly because I
had to postpone a meeting with him recently due to conflicting
parliamentary business.
“I have been in correspondence with the Ministry of Justice and HMP Durham
very recently about matters of concerns to some POA members.
“I am always mindful of the fact that I have three prisons in my
constituency and I represent a large number of prison officers. As I hope
my local prison officers know, I have great respect for the work they do.
“I look forward to continuing my positive relationship with the POA
locally in Durham, and look forward to meeting Colin Moses soon.”
Mr Moses added: “The POA is not affiliated to any party but I have been a
life-long Labour Party member.
“The prisons are the largest employer in the constituency outside the
health service and the local authority. Indeed, we probably employ more
than the local authority.
“She only has a majority of 3,000.”

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