Written Answers. - Prison Staff.

Michael D. Higgins

Question:

49 Mr. M. Higgins asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform the position regarding his proposals for the ending of overtime by prison officers; the progress which has been made with regard to the discussions between the Irish Prison Service and the Prison Officers Association regarding his proposals; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17098/03]

I refer the Deputy to my recent reply to Question No. 194 of 13 May last concerning my proposals for the ending of overtime by prison officers and my intentions in terms of negotiations with the Prison Officers' Association. In that response, I indicated that a framework proposal had issued to the association with a view to early negotiations on a new way forward and that the Irish Prison Service had invited the association to discussions in that context.

These discussions are focused on the operation of the proposed new annual hours system and the detailed attendance and payment arrangements which will need to be put in place.

While it would not be appropriate for me to go into detail on the discussions, I am in a position to report that Irish Prison Service management is satisfied that a constructive and intense application to negotiations by both sides is under way. This active engagement of management and staff interests in addressing this long-standing issue is most welcome.

Notwithstanding the sensitive and complex issues involved, I have reiterated to Irish Prison Service management the urgency with which this matter must be addressed, and I look forward to an early positive outcome to the current negotiations process.