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Community corrections staff ‘insulted’

About 50 Wairarapa Community Corrections workers have walked off the job after union members rejected the Department of Correction’s pay offer after nine months of negotiation.

The local staff were some of the 1900 union members who went on strike for two hours from 2pm on Thursday.

This was the first strike action taken by Corrections workers since 2001.

A Public Service Association [PSA] spokesperson said the participating workers included probation officers, those who manage people on electronic monitoring sentences and on home detention, and those who provide bail support and facilitated programmes in prisons.

“It’s very disappointing for workers to take this action, but members are insulted by the latest offer, which fails to address the real pressures on their households from the cost-of-living challenge,” PSA lead organiser Josephine O’Connor said.

When the union turned down the pay offer on March 10, O’Connor said persistent low pay and a pay system that had blocked pay progression had dominated talks between the department and the PSA.

“Community Corrections has the lowest paid staff in the public service, yet they perform some of the most skilled and demanding work with the people of highest risk to the safety of communities,” O’Connor said.

She said people who had worked for corrections through thick and thin were being offered pay increases of 4.7 per cent in the first year of a collective agreement and 3 per cent in the second year.

Brigid Kean, Department of Corrections deputy national commissioner, said corrections would continue discussions with the PSA.

Our staff do a challenging job working with some of the most vulnerable and complex people in our communities, and it takes a particular kind of person with specialist skills to do this job well.”

She said that public safety was the top priority of the department, and it always had extensive continuity plans in place across the country.

Local community corrections staff declined to comment.

Corrections workers plan two more two-hour strikes on April 20 and 27.

Grace Prior
Grace Prior
Grace Prior is a senior reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with a keen interest in environmental issues. Grace is the paper’s health reporter and regularly covers the rural sector, weather, Greater Wellington Regional Council, and coastal stories.

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