Wednesday 13 December 2017

Oberstown staff vote to strike after 100 violent attacks in just one year

Oberstown centre. Inset Tom Hoare
Oberstown centre. Inset Tom Hoare

Robin Schiller

Staff at the country's only young offenders' institution have overwhelmingly voted in favour of industrial action following over 100 violent incidents at the facility last year.

Residential care workers and night supervision staff at the Oberstown detention centre supported strike action by a margin of 95pc in a dispute over safety claims.

The most recent figures showed that over 100 violent incidents occurred at the Lusk facility last year, with more than half classed as "critical".

As a result of injuries suffered, a total of 3,005 sick days were taken involving 65 staff members - an average of 46 sick days per worker.

Assist General Secreatry of IMPACT, Tom Hoare. Photo: David Walsh
Assist General Secreatry of IMPACT, Tom Hoare. Photo: David Walsh

Their unions, Impact and Siptu, have said that staff and residents at the understaffed centre are exposed to the risk of violent assault every day.

The Oberstown campus caters for 48 under-18s, including a mix of vulnerable young offenders and violent criminals with multiple convictions.

The industrial action is likely to include work stoppages, during which emergency cover will be provided. The turnout on the ballot was 91pc.

The move comes against the background of a growing number of attacks on staff since the expansion of the State's only youth detention centre to facilitate the transfer of offenders from the prison service.

Impact official Tom Hoare criticised the design of the campus, saying it had inadequate safety equipment.

"A series of policy decisions has left Oberstown care workers doing the work of prison staff with the facilities and equipment of a residential care home," he said.

"The campus is badly designed and understaffed, with inadequate safety equipment and procedures to deal with a mix of vulnerable young people.

fear

"The result is a daily risk of serious assault, which leaves many of the staff literally in fear of their lives."

The staff concerned work at three schools on the campus - Oberstown Boys School, Oberstown Girls School and Trinity House.

Responsibility for the campus was transferred from the Department of Justice to the Department of Children and Youth Affairs in 2012.

Herald

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