Over the last few years we faced down a strong attempt to cut our terms, conditions and wages by our employer doing the bidding of the National Government. We stood strong against the threats of privatisation and sellouts, made small gains in our wages, strengthened our conditions, and combined our agreements.

We continue to build on our strong partnerships with our Australian comrades in the Prison Officers Association of Australasia (POAA), and also our sister union in NZ and build union density to 95%. High density gives strong unions which in turn provides strong, happy and productive workers.

The House that CANZ built campaign still runs in the background and serves to remind us of the gains of the last 15 years, and compare our agreement with the wages and conditions of the private prisons in Australia. After all it is the Private Prisons that the government claims are our competition. Yet we all know plenty of staff that now work in Australia, which is where our real competition for staff lies.

The thing we need everyone to realise is the single most important asset you have at work is your Collective Employment Agreement (CEA). This is the document that determines what you get paid, how long you work and if you get extra when you do extra.

This Asset is far more important than Policy or legislation. The reason for this is simple:

Policy can be changed by the boss without any consultation, agreement or notice and without any recourse by you. It is made up by the boss and can be changed by the boss. There is no certainty in Policy. Policy offers a worker no protection.

Legislation –  this can be good for us and this can be bad for us. It simply depends on who is in power at the time. Legislation can be changed with little you can do to stop it. But if this does get changed it does not have to affect your CEA.

The other big issue over the last few years is STAFF SAFETY. In October 2012 the minister finally came out with the truth about staff assaults. They have increased 190% in the last 2 years.

In this time we have seen overcrowding (double bunking), 8-5 regime (decreased unlock time) and smoke free prisons. All of these CANZ have said will have an effect on our safety. On all of these issues we have asked for response teams at all high security prisons.

We have asked for the ability to protect ourselves, not by learning better fighting techniques but by using technology like pepper spray. We have seen the relaxing of the rules around Pepper Spray but this has taken 5 years. We need faster progress and a stronger commitment from our Boss and National Government towards safety at work.

We are CANZ, we are Staff, we are proud of our achievements, we are proud of our Association.