PRISONERS will be locked up in their cells for extra hours in two of the nation's biggest jails as a result of work stoppages by staff.
The action is being taken by members of the Prison Officers Association in a row over staffing levels at Mountjoy and Cloverhill prisons.
The association have claimed that staffing levels at the prisons are dangerously low and in breach of health and safety regulations.
But the Irish Prison Service said last night it was "disappointed" with the proposed course of action by the officers.
It accused the association of proposing to breach the terms of the public service agreements, which set out, initially in the Croke Park deal, that strikes or other forms of industrial action by trade unions, employees or employers, were precluded. This was later reaffirmed in the Haddington Road agreement.
The work stoppages will take place initially at Cloverhill prison in west Dublin for an hour, from 2pm to 3pm, on September 18 and 19. Two further one-hour stoppages will be staged by staff at Mountjoy after lunch on two days the following week.
Association officials said last night that they were expected by prison management to continue to provide a full staffing service at the two jails with insufficient officers on duty.
Prisoners are usually locked in their cells for one hour at lunchtime every day, but this is likely to be extended to two hours during the stoppages.
The running of Mountjoy and Cloverhill during the stoppages will be dependant on members of management and other staff who are not affiliated to the prison officers association.
However, it is expected that an attempt will be made in the coming days to hold talks between the two sides to attempt to negotiate a settlement to prevent the stoppages.
A report is now being prepared for Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald.