Prison employment switch leads to job-security fears

HMP Northumberland.
HMP Northumberland.

A concerned member of staff at HMP Northumberland has said he fears for his future job security after an alternative employment offer was put forward.

Sodexo Justice Services (SJS), which took over the running of the Acklington-based unit in December, is giving uniformed employees the chance to move onto the company’s own terms and conditions.

It is a voluntary scheme and Sodexo says that it is not compulsory for staff to sign up, nor will it be in the future.

But our source at the prison, who did not want to be named, is not convinced.

“I honestly do fear for the future of our jobs.

“While they say that people do not have to come onto Sodexo’s terms and conditions right away, I am not convinced that they won’t try to make the people who don’t sign up now, sign up in the future – or get rid of them. At the end of the day, it is about saving money.”

All uniformed grades who take up Sodexo’s terms and conditions will be given the equivalent four years’ salary difference up front as a single lump-sum payment.

The number of staff who can take up the offer is limited – available on a first-come, first-served basis. Depending on take-up, it may be extended to other grades of staff.

A SJS spokesman said: “Employees who transferred across to SJS have their existing terms and conditions of their employment protected under Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations. We have no intention of changing these terms and conditions.

“We have offered our prison officers at HMP Northumberland the opportunity to apply voluntarily to move to Sodexo terms and conditions.

“We have made available the services of independent financial advisors and insisted that all members of staff who wish to take up our offer obtain independent legal advice at our cost. We consulted with our unions before making this voluntary offer.”

l He also confirmed that a prisoner was taken to hospital after a minor incident last week, but the inmate returned the next day.