Managers step in to guard prisoners

2009-08-18 00:00

THE management at the Pietermaritzburg New Prison had to roll up their sleeves and guard the prisoners during breakfast yesterday morning as the majority of the guards, who are still angry about the occupational specific dispensation (OSD) agreement, reportedly went on leave.

A source said the prison was operating with a skeleton staff as most guards had booked themselves on leave.

Last Friday, the guards spent the whole day negotiating with management as they were angry about the OSD agreement and about their new shift schedule, the Seven Day Establishment, which effectively cancels overtime pay and increases working hours.

The source said yesterday morning the managers of the prison had to supervise the prisoners during breakfast as only two female guards showed up for work.

“The manager of the prison had no choice but to ask other managers to assist and guard the prisoners because there were only two female officers who reported for duty and the prisoners had to eat.”

The source said this was not only against the law, but it was also dangerous. “Those were hardened criminals and with them anything could happen. That is why there should be at least 20 guards during eating times.”

The source further said even those guards who were on duty, were dragging their feet.

He said they felt justified to stay away from work because their environment was not safe and their jobs are not safe.

“Because of the new ratio, it’s difficult to control the prisoners. If a prisoner or a guard gets injured, the guards have to explain and so they feel unsafe even in doing their jobs because they can be suspended any moment.”

He said they will not, however, embark on a national march as they had planned until the end of the month when their situation is supposed to be resolved.

Thami Zondi, the spokesman for the Correctional Services Department, said he could not confirm as to whether the management had to guard the prisoners themselves during breakfast because he “noticed that things were working normally”.

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