A united cross-union campaign against the NSW government’s privatisation fire sale is needed, as prison workers continue their fight against privatisation.
The latest announcement, made just before the Easter holidays, was that the government will proceed with a sell-off of lotteries, threatening another 170 jobs.
A Stop The Cell Off rally was held outside Parliament House on April 2 to protest the plans to privatise Cessnock and Parklea prisons. Prison officers struck for 24-hours, with 3000 attending the protest, which was backed by Unions NSW.
Privatisation is again causing turmoil inside the Labor party. Twelve Labor MPs joined the protest, including Gerard Martin who told the rally prison privatisation goes against Labor Party policy and will not be tolerated by members.
But John Robertson has used the party’s Legal and Constitutional Committee—which is stacked with factional allies—to rubber stamp the privatisation plans.
Robertson, who led the state electricity anti-privatisation campaign as Secretary of Unions NSW, is in charge of the privatisation of the two prisons in his new position as Corrective Services Minister.
As one Parklea worker told Solidarity “They say they are for protecting jobs, but here they are threatening thousands. And it’s not just one person, it’s a whole family. You know I’ve got six kids, what are they supposed to do if I lose my job?”
Robertson claims that privatisation of prisons will save the state $63 million.
However, experience overseas in the US demonstrates that if prisons are run privately, they cannot be trusted to run for less without sacrificing quality of care or societal interests. Privatisation overseas has led to reduced rehabilitation programs, staff numbers and safety levels for staff and inmates.
When prisons are run for profit it breeds corruption. Typically privatised prisons make more money if they house more prisoners, and prisoners with longer lengths of stay. Recently in the US, controversy arose when it was uncovered that judges accepted bribes of $2.6 million to imprison more than 2000 children for minor offences.
If Cessnock and Parklea prisons are privatised, they are likely to be bought by US-owned corporations, such as the Wackenut owned groups, GEO, who currently run Junee Prison (the state’s only privately owned prison), and Australasian Correctional Management (ACM), who ran the refugee detention centres.
At the rally, Steve Turner, Assistant General Secretary of the PSA said, “You saw what happened at Baxter detention centre with all the psychological impacts, with all the horror that went on there. We don’t want these people running our prisons”.
Unionists need to push for united delegates meetings and rallies to bring together the anti-privatisation fights and create a sense of opposition the government cannot ignore.

By Carolyn Mutch

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