Western Australian Corrective Services Minister Joe Francis has voiced concerns that the recruitment process for prison officials may not be discerning enough – he cited “unacceptable” levels of sick leave, overtime and workers compensation as evidence that some workers are in the wrong job.
The minister has commissioned a review of the selection criteria used for the recruitment of corrective services personnel as well as a review of the training they’re provided. Francis commented that working in corrective services requires “a certain thickness of skin”.
According to Francis, who also manages the portfolio for Fire and Emergency Services, the prison officers' overtime and personal leave cost the state some $35m in 2011-12 – 19% of the overall wage bill of $182m. This figure was double the proportion claimed by Fire and Emergency Services.
"It is of great concern that we are spending that much on overtime as a percentage of the wages bill," Francis said. "You need to look at this in the context of other Government departments and it clearly isn't right. I need to find out why it is so high. I have concerns that leave entitlements could be rorted. Something there rings alarm bells,” he said.
Francis added there was "anecdotal evidence" that some officers took unpaid, or so-called "purchased" leave, resulting in others working overtime to cover the shifts.
Commenting on high levels of stress leave and workers compensation claims, Francis acknowledged there are a lot of dedicated and hardworking prison officers, but suggested that clearly some people may be in the wrong job. "You need a certain thickness of skin to work in corrections," he said.