General Secretary

June 2017

POST CONFERENCE 2017

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THE UNION HAS A CLEAR STRATEGY TO MANAGE ANY CHANGE THAT PRISON REFORM WILL BRING.

It goes without saying that the last few months have been challenging and Conference had to make some difficult decisions, as we are in the process of dealing with the interim injunction, granted to NOMS (now HMPPS).

The interim injunction was granted as a result of the Executive’s decision to advise members to withdraw from certain voluntary tasks, this was deemed to be in breach of Section 127 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. This legislation has been consistently used by the employer to prevent POA members from taking any form of action. It is paramount to the future of the POA that we use all our resources to challenge it and remove it from legislation in its current form.

The POA is due to defend the interim injunction and application from HMPPS to have it made permanent in July. The outcome of the legal arguments will be relayed to members by way of POA circular in due course.

National Chair

The resignation of the National Chair, Mike Rolfe, just before Conference was a huge surprise, but Mike has decided that he wants to take a different route with his career and I wish him well, as he starts his political campaign with the Labour Party. I enjoyed my time working with Mike as an NEC member and as Chair of the POA, but the Union must now move on.

I have recently set out the timetable for the election of a new National Chair and NEC member. I wish all candidates well and urge members to exercise their democratic right to vote in these elections. It would be remiss of me not to mention the General Election, an election that can shape the future of the POA. The political parties have all published their manifestos and set out their plans for the country and public services should they gain power. I urge members to read these and then vote in the election.

Pension age

The POA now has a clear mandate on pensions. We will now seek to achieve the mandatory retirement age of 60 for all operational staff. As stated to Conference, this will be difficult but the Executive will continue to campaign and lobby Government and try to persuade the employers that 68 is too late and 60 is a reasonable and sensible retirement age.

Violence

The unprecedented levels of violence in POA member’s workplaces must be addressed. Recent statistics demonstrate that on average, 19 staff a day are assaulted in prisons in England and Wales.

The POA must continue to challenge employers and Government to make your workplace safe. We must ensure that all acts of violence are reported to the Police and prosecuted. Local branch officials must ensure that safe systems of work and risk assessments are reviewed following all acts of violence. The Executive are working with HMPPS to improve safety and the provision of PPE.

Pay

The latest recommendations to the PSPRB are disgraceful. The disparity in pay across the service has to be addressed and following the decisions of Conference, we shall ensure this is taken forward as a matter of urgency. It is clear that recruitment and retention of staff is linked to pay and conditions and it is for the Executive to persuade Government and employers that the current remuneration package is not fi t for purpose.

HMPPS believe that the following is acceptable:

  • F&S Bands 2 to 5 and 7 to 11 National are increased by one percent
  • Uniformed Closed Grades and Phase one managerial grades − a one-off 0.6 percent non-pensionable

These proposals are an insult to the hardworking professional Prison Officers and other grades, who for the last six years have continued to see their pay eroded in real terms.

The Government’s pay restraint is simply unacceptable and the POA need to recognise that we must be in a position to persuade HMPPS to change the current pay structure and bring fairness to all. This will undoubtedly be difficult but something the Executive will continue to pursue as part of ongoing negotiations.

Awards

Conference awarded Finlay Spratt, Brian Clarke and Geoffrey Burrows Honorary Life Membership, with Charles Douglas – HMP Dumfries, Tony Jackson – HMP Sudbury and Niall McIntosh – HMP Whitemoor, receiving the Cronin Clasp, all worthy recipients.

The next few months will be difficult for the Union as we deal with all the changes prison reform will bring.

The Union has a strategy to manage change and this involves each member, every branch committee and the NEC working together as one.

We must remain united, challenge and manage change and improve the safety of our workplaces.

Steve Gillan
General Secretary

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