Staffing levels at Scotland’s prisons have been reduced to a minimum after prison officers walked out in a row over pensions.
Prison officers are joining thousands of public sector workers in carrying out the strike in protest against UK government reforms.
Andy Hogg, Scottish Secretary of the Prison Officers Association Scotland, said: “Unlike the armed forces, firefighters and police, the UK Government refuse to accept prison officers are a uniformed service whose role in delivering a safer Scotland is equally unique and should be recognised as such. This approach by the UK Government is in direct contrast to the position of both the Scottish Government and the Scottish Prison Service both of whom support our position that prison officers should be able to retire at age 60, in line with other uniformed services.”
A spokesman for the Scottish Prison Service confirmed their staffing numbers would be hit by the walkout. He said all visits and education classes would be cancelled and expected that transfers to and from court would also be affected. Contingency staff will be in place to respond to emergencies and other workers will provide health and safety support.
Phil Fairlie, Scottish National Chairman of the union, added: “We believe the UK Government owes our members a duty of care and the right to retire with dignity in a good state of mental and physical health and not to be subjected to the stressful and demanding environment of a prison in their elder years. A pension age of 68 is simply not acceptable to this union.”
Elsewhere, members of the Public and Commercial Services Union will mount picket lines at sites including Jobcentres, tax offices, courts and the Scottish Government offices.
The union said the dispute involved 30,000 civil and public servants in Scotland taking action with members throughout the UK, along with those from other unions.
Protests and rallies are also being held in Inverness, Dundee, and Glasgow.
Janice Godrich, PCS national president, said: "PCS members in Scotland will join their colleagues across the UK and from other unions in a day's strike action. Coming the day after the Queen's Speech, which has set out the coalition government's next set of cuts including forcing through more pension changes that will mean civil and public service workers paying more each month and working up to eight years longer.
"They also have plans for regional and local pay which, if implemented, would mean lengthy pay freezes for many in the most deprived areas of Britain. The attack on pensions is a critical element of the government's assault on working people, who are been forced to pay the most for a crisis they did not cause. PCS and our members say this is unacceptable and the action on May 10 will demonstrate this loud and clear."
There will also be picket lines mounted at the Scottish Parliament, Faslane nuclear base and both Edinburgh and Stirling Castle.
Lynn Henderson, PCS Scottish secretary, said: "This strike is part of a national co-ordinated campaign in defence of public sector pensions. Scottish public sector workers are suffering pension losses, at the same time as their pay is being frozen for a second year by Scottish and UK governments. The targeting of public sector pensions by the UK government is part of the flawed economic agenda of austerity which disguises a wider ideological attack on the public sector and public sector workers." Scottish Greens are backing members striking by refusing to cross the picket line at Holyrood.
The walkout follows the huge stoppage by more than one-and-a-half million workers across the UK in November 2011 in protest at the changes to their pensions.
Most public sector unions remain opposed to the reforms, which they warned would leave millions of workers having to pay more into their pensions, retiring later, and receiving less when they stop work.
- More than 70,000 Scottish public sector jobs on the line, says TUC
- Hutton report calls for public sector pensions cut
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