Backdown on jail privatisation

Win for Cessnock nurses but campaign continues

Nurses have welcomed a State Government backdown on privatisation of Cessnock jail, while vowing to continue the campaign to keep other services including Parklea jail in public hands.

‘We are very happy and relieved,’ said John Kemp RN, NSWNA Branch Secretary at Cessnock jail, which employs about 20 nurses.

‘Quite a few people in town have come up to me and said it’s really good we are keeping the prison public and keeping local people employed.’

Two Cessnock jail nurses, Janese Bushell and Gillian Miller, travelled to Sydney to attend a union-organised protest outside Labor Party headquarters. Apparently recognising the extent of public opposition, the State Government decided to abandon the sale of Cessnock. However, the Minister for Corrective Services John Robertson said privatisation of Parklea jail would go ahead.

Mr Robertson said the Government had spared Cessnock jail from privatisation because the town was hit hard by the closure of the Bonds clothing factory and the effects of the global economic crisis.

NSWNA General Secretary, Brett Holmes, said this sounded like an excuse for backing down in the face of increasingly widespread opposition.

‘It goes to show that standing up for your rights and taking the fight to the Government can really pay off,’ Brett said.

‘The Minister’s suggestion that the impact of privatisation would be too great on the local community following the closure of Bonds runs contrary to the Government’s previous assurances that privatisation would not lead to a loss of jobs and would in fact be of benefit to the community.

‘Our next step is to continue the campaign to ensure Parklea is not privatised.’

Gillian Miller said Cessnock’s local organisation Community Against Privatisations (CAPs) would continue, despite the saving of Cessnock jail.

‘We’re not going to fold just because we’ve won one battle,’ she said.

‘I took a petition around the jail this morning to save Wallsend nursing home (see story opposite).

‘Louise Howell, who is nursing at Wallsend Aged Care Facility, helped us do our submission to the parliamentary inquiry into prison privatisation and spoke to the inquiry as a member of CAPS.

‘So now Cessnock is getting behind the nurses at Wallsend. We’ve done it for our jobs (at Cessnock jail) and now we are going to try to help other people as well.’