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Australia: State to run jail.

Tuesday, 2 March 2004
By Sue Paterick

THE long wait is over with the announcement late yesterday afternoon that the Mid- North Coast Correctional Centre will not be privatised.

Talks over privatisation began in early January and about 200 people who had applied for jobs were left in limbo.

Principal industrial officer for the Prison Officers Vocational Branch of the Public Services Association John Scullion said the Department of Corrective Services and the union worked a deal involving work practices and an island award.

He said the award would cover only the State's three new jails at Kempsey, Dillwynia and Wellington.

But the big question over employment - when it will start - remains unanswered.

A spokeswoman for Justice Minister John Hatzistergos said a statement concerning the status of the jail and employment issues would not be made until some time today.

However, Mr Scullion said he believed there was a guarantee that a certain amount of staffing would be local residents in the Kempsey Shire, a decision he said the union totally supported.

"We have also asked that training be expedited as urgently as possible so people who want to work there can be trained, he said.

It is believed there will be no internal transfer list prepared for the three new jails.

All applicants will have to face an interview panel and be appointed by merit.

Under the new award conditions will be slightly modified compared to the State Award for prison officers.

Mr Scullion said the key to keeping the centre public was a flat rate for overtime.

He said it was a big win for the union and until the past two weeks it was still thought the jails would be privatised.

Even at a statewide delegates meeting on Thursday there was still a fear that the new centres would go private so 95 per cent of the 40 delegates present voted in favour of the union's recommendations to accept the island award.

"The other moving factor was the rundown conditions of the older jails in the State's country locations, Mr Scullion said.

"We could see them closing down and the inmates moved to private prisons buy that threat has been removed, Mr Scullion said.

"We can now take the time to fix them up.

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