By Abednego Davis
Over 500 corrections officers assigned with the 15 prison facilities across the country have threatened to stage a strike action if their two-month arrears are not settled by the government.
The officers, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of being dismissed, told the Daily Observer that since April of this year, the Ministry of Justice has not paid them.
“If they cannot settle our two months’ pay we are going to stage a strike action or a go-slow action. We are not joking with this decision, because it is generally agreed upon.
“How do they expect us to take care of our families when this job does not allow us to seek other opportunities for financial gain?”
Meanwhile, the government has reduced the prison food budget, they said.
In an exclusive interview with Edwin Folley McGill, director of prisons at the Bureau of Corrections, he confirmed the allegation of arrears, claiming that the Ministry of Finance (MOF) is to be blamed.
“We do not pay our officers, what we do here is only prepare our internal finance department that processes every piece of document and gives it to the MOF for payment,” McGill said.
The prison director also admitted that delays in payment of salaries have been a continuous issue.
“Delay in salary payment is not just happening now, it has been going on for some time; and it is a combination of a lot of factors, including budget shortfall,” McGill stated.
McGill blamed the situation on the bureau not having an autonomous status. “We are not standing on our own, we are directly under the MOJ; and by that, it is the ministry that is responsible for arranging for our officers’ salary payment.”
“It is the MOJ that determines whatever we need as a bureau to spend and they know that, so what would they threaten a strike action?” McGill asked with regards to anonymous group of officers.
“I am disappointed to hear about a strike action by our officers, because we are security officers and not in the business of striking,” the corrections bureau director emphasized, adding, “We are going to conduct an investigation into the matter.”