Tribunal to challenge Government over prison officer pensions

HMP Hindley
HMP Hindley

Union bosses representing prison officers at Hindley say it is unfair some of their new members might be expected to work until they are 67.

Prison Officers Association (POA) leaders have now taken out employment tribunal proceedings to challenge the Ministry of Justice over widescale pension reforms now being implemented.

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Controversy has raged over a new pension scheme, announced in 2015, with the POA claim discriminates against some of their members on the grounds of age.

Prison officers aged 53 or older are expected to remain with the old pension scheme, they say, while those aged 49-and-a-half or younger are required to transfer to an “inferior” alternative.

Those aged between 49-and-a-half and 53 have until February 2022 to leave the old system and adopt the new scheme.

But POA bosses say the scheme now being introduced requires prison officers to work until their state pension age, which will be 67 for the transferees.

A POA spokesman said: “We do not believe that it is realistic to expect anyone to perform the difficult, strenuous and potentially dangerous duties of a prison officer at that age.

“Members will end up having to retire early for reasons of health, with a substantial reduction to their pension. In the old pension scheme the normal pension age is 60, which is the oldest realistic age at which to expect a member to continue working in the prison service or the secure hospital environment.”

Around 3,500 prison officers, including a number based at Hindley, are expected to support the tribunal action. Similar successful pensions actions were taken by judges and firefighters previously.

Steve Gillan, the POA’s general secretary, said: ““From day one of the changes the POA national executive committee was clear that we were opposed to the changes by Government and our membership rejected the changes through a ballot.

“The POA remains willing to negotiate a solution which will enable prison officers and other POA members to retire with an unreduced pension at the age of 60. Ministers know our position and we would rather reach a solution but it would appear there is a reluctance from Government to engage meaningfully therefore we have commenced legal proceedings”

The Prison Service was unavailable for comment as the Wigan Post went to press.