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Australia high-security prisoners strike for better pay

AFP , Tuesday 6 Sep 2016
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Inmates at an Australian jail housing murderers and drug dealers have gone on strike demanding better pay, claiming their wages are not enough to cover living costs in the top-security prison.

Dozens of convicts have downed tools and are refusing to work, claiming the lack of inflation-indexed pay is disrespectful.

Inmates at Barwon prison must work as part of their sentence and are currently paid between Aus$6.50 and Aus$8.95 (US$4.95-$6.82) a day, depending on what they do. But they want more.

"The wages paid are a lot less than in other states in Australia and it doesn't meet their increasing costs," said Brett Collins, a spokesman for prisoner advocate group Justice Action.

"There's been a lack of any CPI (inflation) indexation, which has left them with less buying power.

"They feel resentful and that they haven't been treated respectfully. This is a last act of desperation."

The government-run Corrections Victoria said all prisoners were required to perform tasks including gardening and maintenance and those who refused had been confined to their cells.

"Work provides skills to help prisoners find jobs when they are released from custody, and reduces the risk of reoffending," it said.

"Some Barwon prisoners have refused to work, but this has been managed without incident."

Barwon, which houses almost 450 inmates and lies 75 kilometres (46 miles) southwest of Melbourne, is home to some of Victoria's most dangerous criminals, including murderers and drug dealers.

Last year, heavily-armed police quelled a riot involving up to 300 inmates at a nearby Victorian jail, sparked by the introduction of a smoking ban.

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