The authorities of the Ghana Prisons Service as well as the government have condemned the demonstration embarked upon by the officers and men of the Kumasi Central Prisons.
While the Acting Director-General of the Service, Kofi Bansah, described the action as "unacceptable", Mr James Agyenim-Boateng, Deputy Infromation Minister, said it was in violation of the constitutional provisions regulating the operations of the security services.
“The Prison Service is a para-military institution with established rules that should be followed strictly by the officers and men,” Mr Bansah stated.
Mr Bansah said though the officers had genuine complaints regarding some disparities in the implementation of the Single Spine Salary Structure, it was wrong for them to embark on a demonstration to resolve their grievances.
Speaking to the Times on the issue in Accra yesterday, he admitted that there were some discrepancies in the salary structure of the security agencies, particularly between the prisons and the police, but said the representative of the Prison Service on the Review Committee of the Fare Wages Commission was working to find an amicable solution to the problem of special allowances for the officers.
Mr Bansah said it therefore came as a surprise, to the authorities of the service when the officers in Kumasi embarked on a demonstration.
“Our concern is that even if you have a good case, you must channel your grievances to the appropriate authorities,” he said.
In another development, the Government has also condemned the industrial action embarked upon by the Prison Personnel, describing it as “a violation of rules of engagement for security personnel.”
Mr. James Kwadwo Agyenim Boaten, a Deputy Minister of Information, said: “By their conditions of engagement, the Prison Service, as well as other security establishments, is debarred from participating in demonstrations, industrial unrest and any unionist activities.
“The action, therefore, by a section of personnel from Kumasi is a flagrant violation of the constitution and their rules of engagement.”
The Deputy Minister was speaking at a press conference organised by the Ministry, in collaboration with the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission.
He noted that the Ministry of the Interior, the Prisons Service Council and the National Security would institute immediate service enquiry into the incident and “all those involved in the illegal act would be made to face the full rigours of the law.”
Mr. Agyenim-Boateng advised security personnel to read carefully their rules of engagement, follow procedure for redress and avoid acts of destabilisation.
Meanwhile Kwadwo B. Donkor, reports from Kumasi, that there was a near clash between personnel of the Ghana Police and the Prison Service when the Police in crowd control armoury, tried to control the demonstrators, who had gathered in front their premises.
The Police, who were there to provide security for the Regional Security Council (REGSEC) members who had come to assess the situation, were misunderstood by the striking Prison Officers as an attempt to intimidate and force them to return to work.
The demonstrators had locked up the entrance to the prison yard thus denying relatives and the police access to their relatives and remand suspects. Remand prisoners who were due for court were not allowed to be picked by the police while new prisoners were also denied entry.
They burnt car tyres and held placards, amid chanting of songs. Some of the placards read ““Government what is Single Spine?”, “Dissolve the Prison Service if you can’t pay us well”, “Come again, this is cheating”, “We are being cheated”, “No visit, No admission,” Oh, Prison, who will save us?”
The prison personnel were demanding fair treatment from the FWC. According to them, a comparative analysis of their salary to that of the police, showed a big disparity.
For instance, while a Police Constable’s take home pay was GH¢460.00 his counterpart in the Prison Service was GH¢270; again, while Police Corporal is now taking GH¢950 after the single spine, that of his equivalent in the Prison Service is GH¢580.
They considered this a discrimination against personnel of the service, particularly when “we are the ones who live and guard the people considered to be menace to society.”
The chaotic situation at the entrance of the prisons, which ironically was adjacent to the Kumasi Central police station and Police Regional head quarters, brought activities to a stand-still.
The presence of the police in combat gear angered the prison wardens who had wanted to march on ‘to face them,’ but the timely intervention of the General Officer Commanding the Northern Command of the Ghana Armed Forces, Brigadier Ocran, calmed tempers.
After an emergency meeting, the REGSEC assured on the striking officers that their grievances had been forwarded to Accra for immediate attention.
They were told the Security Services Council would soon meet to resolve the problem and implored them to return to work.
They agreed to go back to work but threatened that if after Friday, their demands were not met, they would wear the red bands again.
From Tamale Yakubu Abdul-Majeed, reports that Prison officers in the metropolis did not join their colleagues elsewhere to demonstration against poor salary.
A lot of them were seen at the Tamale prison yard carrying out their official assignments without any sign of demonstration or sit-down strike.
At the time of the “Times” visit to the yard some of the prisons officers were teasing each other over the demonstration of their colleagues in other regions.
In an interviewe, one of the female prison officers who pleaded anonymity condemned the demonstration, describing it as unnecessary and act of indiscipline because their bosses were asked to negotiate with their employer on their behalf.
She stated that though they had genuine concerns, the approach that their colleagues adopted was very wrong.
And Cape Coast David Yarboi-Tetteh, reports that prison offices at Ankaful Prisons in the Central Region are still at post despite reports of a sit-down strike in some regions.
A visit to the prison by the Times yesterday, witnessed that the offices were going about their normal duties at the prisons.
Some of the officers who spoke to the Times, said it was wrong for their colleagues in other security agencies to be paid higher than them.
The Regional Commander of the Prisons Service, Ahwa Yankey, told the Times that the Ankaful Prisons had not had any distractions due to concerns raised in the implementation of the SSSS, adding that “life is normal and everything is going on smoothly here,” he said.
He explained that the problem was being handled at the National Headquarters and urged the officers to remain calm.