POA Circulars

135 | 29.09.2011

Mutual Aid Agreement for Staffing Bed Watches Post September 2011 Within The West Midlands Region

The attached document has been drawn to the attention of the POA Executive.  I wish to make it clear that this is not an agreement and no consultation has taken place between NOMS and the NEC regarding the protocol. I have written to Michael Spurr on this issue seeking clarity and assurances from him in addition to asking him to withdraw the agreement. My letter and his reply will be promulgated to the membership in due course.

The Government invited private companies, along with NOMS, to operate HMP Birmingham and as of Saturday 1st October all staff currently employed at HMP Birmingham will transfer to G4S, the private company which was successful in winning the bid.   At no time during the bid process was the Executive made aware that if a private company was successful in their bid, there would be a mutual aid agreement put in place in respect of bed watches so as to ensure the smooth transitional arrangements from public to private provider.   The only reference to a mutual aid agreement was in respect of a major disturbance.

As we all know bed watches are a daily occurrence of prison life.  Governors and staff have to manage these operational requirements whether they are foreseen or not.  The staff at Birmingham have been and will continue to carry out bed watches until the end of September without any mutual aid agreement in place.  However, on the day that G4S take control of HMP Birmingham, NOMS see fit to introduce a mutual aid agreement which will impact significantly on the West Midlands Region.  The Executive has been advised that the reason NOMS has put the requirement in place is because they allowed staff to transfer out of Birmingham during the competition dialogue process.  This was a decision of NOMS following negotiations with the POA.  At no time was a mutual aid agreement on bed watches raised with the NEC.

If G4S do not have the requisite staffing levels to manage Birmingham safely they can and should use additional hours to cover those shortfalls in exactly the same manner as the public sector must.  The use of payment plus and TOIL is available to G4S and if it fails to deliver the adequate resources to provide safe, decent regimes they should have the ability to call on custody officers from the private sector to cover the shortfalls.

The protocol requires staff from HMP Birmingham to cover the initial period of any bed watch, which clearly suggests that Birmingham have adequate resources to cover the non-profiled work.  The requirement to staff bed watches in the private sector is no different to the demands placed on any public sector prison.

While the Executive will continue to support our colleagues at Birmingham as they face up to the challenges of working for G4S and the implications of TUPE, the NEC fundamentally disagree that this protocol is necessary. 

The POA have advised members that they should only fulfil their contractual obligations and this position remains.  At present there are a number of questions which we are seeking answers to, as the document in the opinion of the NEC is fraught with danger and may have far reaching implications.   The NEC would remind all members that they should consider the implications of volunteering to perform this work until such time as all questions are answered and assurances given to protect public sector employment.

I would ask that you draw the content of this circular to the membership.

Yours sincerely


PJ McParlin
National Chairman