WA prison officers follow nurses to strike action

Prison officers face overcrowding, understaffing and underpay.

Prison officers across Western Australia took strike action in an effort to force the state Liberal government to make similar promises to advance wages and working conditions as it did on February 25 to WA nurses.

The WA Prison Officer Union (WAPOU) is demanding a 14% wage rise over three years and measures to alleviate the chronic overcrowding and understaffing in WA prisons.

The state's prison population has grown by 25% over the past three years, and 13 of 14 prisons are already beyond capacity. The government's plan for expanding the network to accommodate the growing prison population will still leave a deficit of 1200 beds by 2015, the WAPOU said.

The union is also campaigning against government plans to save costs by capping the number of prison officers, cutting back on overtime pay by not filling roster vacancies and further privatisation of the state's prison system.

The WAPOU chose to take strike action before the WA state election on March 9, saying the government has refused to negotiate with the union over pay and conditions since September last year.

Like nurses, the WAPOU is committed to making their problem Premier Colin Barnett's problem and achieving a result by taking industrial action.

John Welch from WAPOU told ABC news: "There will be no prisoners going to courts, there will be no visits" until the union's issues are addressed. Pickets outside all the state's prisons took place during the week.