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Union complains about extra long shifts prison officers forced to work 

by Barbados Today
5 min read

By Emmanuel Joseph and Anesta Henry 

Prison authorities have formally asked the Government to compensate officers who have been working extra hours without compensation under a shift system that was first instituted during the COVID-19 outbreaks at the Dodds, St Philip penal institution two years ago.

In an exclusive interview with Barbados TODAY, Acting Prison Superintendent DeCarlo Payne gave the assurance that not only was the matter of compensation being addressed, but efforts were underway to scrap the “offending” 12-hour shift.

“What I can say to you is that that matter is being addressed by the parent ministry – the Ministry of Home Affairs – as well as the Ministry of the Public Service. This is a matter that was engaging [former Prison Superintendent] Colonel John Nurse when he was here. When I took over, it was raised with me and I would have done a proposal in relation to it and submitted that to the Ministry of Home Affairs and that is being addressed as I speak to you,” he disclosed.
“We put two options on the table. I can’t share because we have to give the government negotiators the opportunity to do what they have to do.”

His promise came in response to General Secretary of the Unity Workers’ Union (UWU) Caswell Franklyn’s disclosure to Barbados TODAY that prisoner officers were being assigned 12-hour shifts and had received no word on how this would continue or how they would be compensated.

He said that while the prison officers were legally required to work eight-hour shifts, having to work the additional four hours was physically taxing.

“This situation has been going on for some time since COVID and prison officers are crying out because it is very hard to work 12-hour shifts. When you work a 12-hour shift, you have to get to work early, which means you have to leave home way in advance of the start of your shift, and then when you work 12 hours, then you got to make your way home.

“So, basically, you are in a situation where you spend 14 to 15 hours a day either at work or trying to get to or from work, and that is not fair because there is no family time. And the authorities are dragging their feet on doing something about it. Prison officers are breaking down, they cannot continue to work 12-hour shifts all the time and don’t get adequate rest. So now, when the guys get sick because they are fatigued, that is another matter,” said Franklyn, whose UWU represents more than 50 prison officers.

The 12-hour shift was introduced as a result of manpower shortages when the prison was hit with a COVID-19 outbreak in January 2021. At the peak of the outbreak, there were 363 infected persons, including 85 prison officers, 261 prison inmates and 17 non-protective service staff members.

“Somewhere around April 1, 2021 . . . they started to relax the COVID-19 protocols…but the four-shift continued,” admitted Payne who succeeded Nurse in May 2022,” Payne explained.

“As a result of that, the staff would have been working the four-shift rotation. It would only affect the shifts, not the 8-4 people because they would work the eight-hour rotation.”

Franklyn told Barbados TODAY that he had been informed that one of the reasons for the long shifts was a shortage of manpower at the correctional facility and that efforts were being made to recruit new prison officers.

Payne confirmed that the Barbados Prison Service is undertaking a recruitment drive to return its numbers to the optimum level of 372 warders, with the aim of scrapping the 12-hour shift.

“As soon as we complete the recruiting and get back to our full numbers, I am going to go back to the shift which is five days a week, eight hours a day, 40 hours a week,” the acting prison boss said, adding that the institution was currently short of its full complement of warders by 25.

“The 12-hour shift creates a situation where, within a month, within a four-week cycle, the staff works an additional eight hours on the shift rotation. So instead of 160 [hours], they are working 168. That is what we are working on to actually resolve as I speak to you.”

Payne said the staff had been made aware of the proposal which he sent off to the Government recommending compensation.

He said the proposal is backdated, covering the April 2021 to April 2022 period.

“Remember this occurred under the previous superintendent and I took over and I researched the whole thing to make sure I was clear on what was going on, and as soon as I was able to understand what was going on, I did a proposal,” the prison superintendent said.

Payne took over the operations at the prison less than a week after Minister of Home Affairs Wilfred Abrahams announced the appointment of a departmental investigation into concerns about the recruitment and promotion process of staff, the treatment of staff, staff accommodation, the medical care of inmates and their protection while in transit to court or clinics.



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