Following reports first published by TNN and Bermuda Real, the Ministry of National Security has confirmed that industrial action took place at the Westgate Correctional Facility as of mid-morning today.

In a statement released this evening, a spokeswoman indicated that the issues that led to the sit out are now the subject of further talks with the “Department of Corrections leadership” and “the Prison Officers Association to address the concerns”.

The Ministry confirmed that among the issues raised was staff shortages at the facility, which has led to health issues, in addition to safety concerns as a result of the lack of staff.

A Ministry spokeswoman noted that efforts to recruit new officers began last year. “For the 15 posts to be filled at that time, 180 applications were received and, following a lengthy recruitment process, six candidates were selected and commenced employment on May 1, 2017. These new officers completed a five-week condensed training programme and were deployed to the facility immediately upon completion,” she said.

“Regrettably, a number of applicants were not successful in meeting some of the basic requirements for the post,” she said. “In April 2017, the Corrections Department sought Cabinet approval to hire 20 corrections officers. That request was not approved. Since his appoint on 20 July, 2017, the Minister of National Security, Wayne M Caines has met with the senior team of the Department of Corrections and has indicated that he will renew the effort to deal with staff shortages at the earliest available opportunity. The Ministry considers the safety and wellbeing of Bermuda’s corrections officers is a priority, and it is hoped that a resolution can be reached for the benefit of all concerned.”

This latest protest follows another sit out last September due to the same issues stemming from the current staff shortage and the spin off effects impacting on the day to day operations of Bermuda’s maximum security prison.

As a result of today’s industrial action the west end facility was placed on lockdown for the entire day. It is not known whether or not that lockdown will continue this weekend.