chapter  7
17 Pages

Industrial relations in prisons

ByJamie Bennett, Azrini Wahidin

Industrial relations (IR) in prisons are widely considered to be in a state of perpetual crisis. The Prison Officers’ Association (POA) is often portrayed as a narrow, outdated and militant relic, while managers are seen as either collusive or ineffective in tackling the union. Official reports have condemned IR as being in ‘a sorry state’ (Woolf and Tumin 1991: 5), and being a block to good performance (Laming 2000). Academic literature has also been critical: prisons have been described as ‘The “Jurassic Park” of Public Sector Industrial Relations’ (Black 1995; also see Bennett 2004). This perception has only been enhanced by events such as the booing of the Prisons Minister at the POA Annual Conference in 2002, described by the then Director General as ‘more appropriate to the Industrial Relations of the 1970s’ (Narey 2002).