Riverina Juvenile Justice Centre staff walked off the job on Wednesday over claims that a lack of resources and violent inmates were putting them in danger.
About 25 Public Service Association (PSA) union members attended the start of a rolling stop-work meeting outside the Glenfield Park centre at 1pm.
The members unanimously carried a motion declaring that the juvenile detention system in NSW was “in crisis” and called for more specialist staff and a new detention unit in the Riverina.
PSA South Western region organiser Michelle Mackintosh said staff in Wagga were having to deal with more inmates with violence or substance abuse issues.
“The members are taking the stop-work action because the NSW Government has failed to act upon their request for a specialised behavioural unit to be but in centres across NSW.
“They are concerned for their safety as these days there are a number of inmates that have behavioural or addiction issues and there are no specialised services available for them.
Ms Mackintosh said the union had been negotiating with the government since 2016.
“The level of violence keeps increasing,” she said.
“Some of the inmates have issues with addiction and with that comes violence and our members should not have to put up with that fear of being assaulted at work.”
The stop-work meeting discussed the new NSW government report on handling violence in juvenile detention and disputed its finding that high risk inmates made up just 10 per cent of juvenile inmates.
Riverina staff did welcome a concession in the report that higher rates of self-harm by inmates was having a impact on staff as well as the young people involved.
A Juvenile Justice said the agency has been in ongoing consultation with the PSA regarding staff safety concerns.
“The PSA have sought meetings today to discuss this long standing issue. As an act of good faith, Juvenile Justice has authorised these meetings to take place,” the spokesperson said.
“Juvenile Justice has taken measures to ensure that these meetings do not significantly impact on the operation of its centres.
“The NSW Government has invested $1 million in additional training for Youth Officers, introduced a National Security Interest designation for detainees who pose a risk to national security and is upgrading CCTV inside all six Juvenile Justice Centres.”
Ms Mackintosh said the union would consider further action if their demands were not met.
“Further action could be taken but that will be up to the delegates and members around the state to determine our next step,” she said.
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