Glen Holmes, an Isle of Wight Prison Officers Association branch officer, speaks to colleagues outside Albany House yesterday. Picture by Laura Holme.
THE government’s handling of yesterday’s shock Camp Hill closure announcement has been branded as appalling by union chiefs.
Members of the national executive of the Prison Officers Association today (Friday) met with Isle of Wight members, many still reeling from the news that the 100-year-old jail is to close within months.
The POA, which represents the vast majority of prison officers and staff at HMP Isle of Wight, has not ruled out industrial action, if its staff are hit with compulsory redundancies.
More than 100 prison officers attended a meeting with national executive representatives, outside the prison’s administrative headquarters Albany House.
Speaking before the meeting, Brian Traynor said the priority for the union at the moment was to ensure that staff were helped to secure alternative employment within the service.
He said: "The way it was announced was absolutely appalling to be honest. It is sad because they are saying that by March 31, Camp Hill will be closed.
"The impact on the Isle of Wight as a community is going to be severe. We have got generations of families who have worked in the service.
"It has obviously been one of the biggest employers on the Isle of Wight. It is going to have a knock on effect on the Island’s economy which is going to be hard. To be announced this way is a kick in the teeth for staff.
"We never discount industrial action of some sort but our priority at the moment is the employment of our staff."
One female prison officer who did not want to be named said: "I think everyone is just gutted to be honest. They are disappointed with the way they have been treated. There are a lot of married couples here and there is no other employment. You are losing two jobs in the family and not just one."
Bishop of Portsmouth Rt Rev Christopher Foster has pledged his support for prison workers and inmates following news of the closure.
"It’s always difficult when people lose their jobs. Although there will be some redeployment and voluntary redundancy, there are bound to be some for whom that doesn’t apply, and that is sad for them and their loved ones," he said.
Interviews for two new prison chaplains were due to take place next week and Rt Rev Foster said he hoped those appointments would go ahead.