POA Circulars

121 | 02.12.2019

POA VICTORY ON HEALTH & SAFETY

The POA has secured a landmark agreement by the Prison Service which for the first time:

  • commits managers to a legally binding procedure for addressing urgent health and safety concerns, and
  • ensures that the POA can advise our members of their health and safety rights without being accused of unlawfully inducing industrial action.


This is the result of a successful settlement of a claim arising out of health and safety concerns raised by members at HMP Lindholme in October 2018.


On 12th October 2018, members at HMP Lindholme arrived at work to hear that two of their colleagues had been seriously assaulted the night before. They had long-running concerns about the safety of the prison and did not feel safe running a full regime that day, so carried out a controlled regime. The POA branch committee, supported by an NEC member, tried to engage with local prison management on behalf of members about their concerns, but were instead accused by management of unlawfully inducing industrial action. The Prison Service brought a claim against the POA for an injunction and damages.

The POA counterclaimed about the unsafe conditions officers were having to work in, with inadequate numbers of staff having to deal with high levels of drugs, weapons, and assaults. We argued that, in circumstances like those at HMP Lindholme on 12th October 2018, the POA must be entitled to advise members of their health and safety rights and to seek to represent their concerns to management in order to try to get them resolved.

We made clear, with an open offer to the Prison Service, that our main objective in the litigation was to have a clear protocol which confirmed our right to advise members about their health and safety rights and to take their concerns to management to try and resolve them, without being accused of unlawfully inducing industrial action and without facing an automatic application for an interim injunction.

We are delighted to report that we have achieved that objective. The Prison Service has agreed to a Protocol (attached) to be followed when members have urgent health and safety concerns. This ensures that, when members come to us with such concerns, POA representatives can advise members of their health and safety rights and duties and the Prison Service will not treat that as unlawfully inducing industrial action.

The Protocol also includes, for the first time, a legally binding commitment by the Prison Service that local management will meet POA officials to discuss members’ urgent health and safety concerns and to try to resolve those concerns in good faith, so that we can ensure members' voices are heard.

The Protocol must of course be used sensibly and in earnest. It must not be used as a pretext for taking or endorsing action which would not be otherwise permitted because if it is so used, the protection which it affords will be lost.

This outcome is an important victory for the POA. It secures our main objectives in this particular case and ensures that we have a legally binding agreement setting out clear parameters which will enable us to advise and represent our members in circumstances like those at HMP Lindholme on that day.

We commend the Lindholme Committee and the branch membership. By their resolve and commitment this has enabled the way forward to this landmark victory for the POA that will now assist every branch in the country.

Your sincerely 

 


MARK FAIRHURST 
National Chair 

 

Yours sincerely

 

STEVE GILLAN
General Secretary

Protocol.pdf

pdf, 1.1M, 02/12/19, 832 downloads