Mountjoy officers to ballot for action over staffing levels
PRISON officers at a major jail are to vote next month on taking industrial action in a dispute that resulted in inmates being locked up in their cells for four hours.
Ballot papers are expected to be issued next week by the Prison Officers' Association (POA) to its members in Mountjoy Prison.
The officers want increased staffing levels at the jail's separation unit after a decision to transfer a known violent prisoner there.
The four-hour unofficial action ended at teatime on Tuesday following talks between Mountjoy governor Ned Whelan and prison officials.
The action had been sparked by the transfer of Leroy Dumbrell (24), who is serving an eight-year sentence for a savage attack on an innocent man walking his dog. The victim lost his sight in one eye as a result.
Dumbrell was imprisoned in Mountjoy after his conviction, but was transferred to Castlerea Prison after a row between two gangs of inmates on December 27 when eight prisoners and four officers were injured.
Staff at Mountjoy want current staffing levels in the unit to be increased because, they say, it is now being used to house disruptive inmates as well as prisoners under protection.
The POA and the Irish Prison Service had previously been to the Labour Relations Commission (LRC) for a hearing before agreement was reached on staffing at the unit, which was recently re-opened to house between 50 and 60 inmates who are under protection.
The management argue that Dumbrell was regarded as a protection prisoner for the past five months in Castlerea, where he was locked up in his cell for 23 hours a day with one hour's exercise on his own.
However, the POA maintains that he should be regarded as a disruptive prisoner because of his involvement in the Christmas incident and his transfer had changed the use of the separation unit, increasing the dangers to staff there.
If the ballot results in a recommendation for action, it is likely the dispute will head back into the LRC for a further hearing on staffing requirements.