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Courtroom custody officers threaten strike action over pay

© Nti Media/ShutterstockA GeoAmey prison van.
A GeoAmey prison van.

Prison custody officers responsible for moving criminals between Scotland’s prisons and courts have threatened to go on strike over a pay dispute.

Trade union GMB says staff are paid less than £10 an hour to escort prisoners to and from court.

Almost 200 prison custody officers (PCOs) who work for GeoAmey are considering a walk out. GMB members are unhappy with a 3% pay deal because it only increases the hourly rate by about 20p for most staff, to £9.56 an hour. A further 3% has been offered next year but GMB says that won’t take the hourly rate above £10. The deal was agreed between GeoAmey and another trade union, Community, which represents the majority of PCOs in Scotland.

GMB has since consulted its members and 95% support a strike ballot in January. GMB Scotland organiser Karen Leonard said: “PCOs act as a human shield between prisoners and the public but are paid an absolute pittance. Our members are saying, enough is enough.

“Unless GeoAmey chiefs are prepared to sit down and tackle the chronic undervaluing of our PCOs, we’ll be moving to a full industrial ballot of GMB members.”

Liam McArthur, Scottish Lib Dems justice spokesman, said: “The officers do a difficult job on the public’s behalf and we should have a reasonable expectation that they’d be paid appropriately.”

Liam Kerr, Shadow Justice Secretary, added: “A long-term and comprehensive solution is required or further disputes like this will continue to occur.”

Earlier this year, we told how murderers and other high-risk prisoners were being driven between jails and courts in ordinary cars after the escort service was privatised.

A series of violent incidents took place inside the cars.

GeoAmey said the incidents happened before it took responsibility for the escort contract and ordinary cars have since been fitted with protective screens.

A spokesman said: “The offer was union-recommended and accepted by the membership through the ballot process.”

Community said: “There was a majority in favour of accepting the new deal which means an above-inflation increase of 3% this year and another 3% next year.”

The Scottish Government said pay disputes were a matter for contractors.