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Jail officers  threaten to stop work
Disruption: Jail officers threaten to stop work. Picture: Steve Ferrier/ The West Australian

Prison officers are threatening to walk off the job during the next fortnight in a dramatic escalation of their pay dispute with the State Government.

A day after nurses called off a strike in what would have been a potential disaster for WA hospitals, the Prison Officers Union said it would vote on whether to strike.

Secretary John Welch said the nurses' successful pay bid showed that the threat of industrial action was the only way to get a deal.

Mr Welch said the Government had told the union it could not negotiate during election periods when it last made a pay offer of 9 per cent over three years.

He said the union had pulled an advertising campaign during the election as a goodwill gesture but would organise a vote among members tomorrow to consider a strike.

It would "seriously consider" calling off industrial action if the Government offered its workers the same 14 per cent, three-year pay deal the nurses were given.

"The Government's offer to nurses in breach of the pre-election caretaker convention suggests the only pathway to a fair pay offer is industrial action, that it only listens to unions who threaten strike action," Mr Welch said.

Colin Barnett yesterday ruled out settling the dispute before the election, even though the officers' agreement was due to expire in the same month as the nurses' enterprise bargaining agreement.

"Their agreement doesn't expire until June, so we will continue to negotiate to reach a settlement," he said.

The Premier rejected Opposition claims the Government had breached caretaker provisions by using public servants to negotiate the deal for nurses.

He said the failure to settle the dispute would have put lives at risk and the increase from 12.75 per cent to 14 per cent was relatively small.

The Government's decision to make a pay offer while in caretaker mode yesterday had other unions clamouring to secure rises.

The Community and Public Sector Workers Union said it wanted to continue negotiations and expected to get the same deal as nurses.

Two of WA's big health unions have traded blows over the deal. The Australian Medical Association said the Australian Nursing Federation had used patients as pawns in an inappropriate tactic.