'Stop staff cuts or build new jail'

STAFF cuts have to stop at Grafton Jail or the government needs to build a new one, claim jail staff union representatives.

Yesterday the Country Labor candidate for Clarence, Peter Ellem, met staff and union officials at the jail where he received this blunt assessment of the situation.

Union representative Assistant Superintendent Damien Carter said 13 staff had been cut this year on top of 10 jobs lost two years ago.

"It's come to the point where things just can't go on," he said. "Either we get more staff or they build a new jail."

He said it was hard for a 100-year-old jail to compete with modern jails on a cost-per-inmate per-day standard.

Mr Ellem said the O'Farrell/Stoner Government had closed three jails, indicating there was a real risk Grafton Jail could follow suit.

"In the recent State Budget the Government cut 13 Corrective Service jobs from Grafton Jail," Mr Ellem said.

"This removes $1.3 billion from our local economy and the Nationals don't care."

Mr Ellem said his Nationals opponent Chris Gulaptis backed WorkChoices at the 2007 Federal Election and would love to see a return of the Howard Government policy.

"We want an ironclad guarantee the prison will not close or be privatised and a commitment to maintaining current job levels," Mr Ellem said.

The assistant general secretary of the Public Service Association, Shane O'Brien, said the staff cuts put workers in danger, especially in older jails like Grafton.

He said day-to-day activities, like moving prisoners from point to point, required extra manpower because the jail lacked modern facilities to ensure staff security.

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