General Secretary

April 2008 | 31.03.2008

Conference Politics and the Union

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Once again we are at the time of year when our minds are drawn towards the issues to be determined by POA Annual Conference.

Whilst the Agenda is now formulated and the membership will be called upon to determine the branch views to be put forward by their delegates, Conference is more than just a policy forum. Conference this year will have the opportunity to listen to a range of speakers whose work impacts on the criminal justice system within the United Kingdom as well as those from other parts of the Trade Union movement.

There will always be those within the Union who believe that we should avoid political discussion and definitely should not be addressing these matters in a public forum such as Conference. This argument is fundamentally flawed. Conference is the time to air our views as a Trade Union regarding the political decisions, interference and the stance taken towards the criminal justice system by the Government and other political parties.

We can look forward to the views of the Justice Secretary, Jack Straw and his explanation of why it is wrong for any Trade Union to take responsible Industrial Action in the furtherance of its members. We can of course not rely on any of his previously held socialist beliefs which allowed him to progress through the political process to his current position. We should expect however, an interesting speech which I hope will be listened to carefully by all delegates.

Conference will also hear from the Director General of the Prison Service and newly appointed head of NOMS, Phil Wheatley. Will we hear how Phil is going to be a future champion for Prison staff and Union Membership or is it more likely that we will be told once again that as a senior civil servant he will carry out the bidding of Politicians without any questions?

The one certainty is that Conference will adopt policies that will be aimed at promoting and protecting the best interest of our union membership and Conference will consider where Conference politics and the union have been brought together.

I would wish to congratulate all NEC members - Brian Traynor, Pete McParlin, Steve Baines, Joe Simpson, Steve Bostock, and the Scottish National Committee, Gordon Pike and Phil Thomas who have been successful in the elections and look forward to working together as a team for the benefit of all our membership. To those who were unsuccessful I would say a thank you for the interest that they have shown in serving the membership and hope that they will continue to maintain the same level of commitment to the union in the future.

I once again would thank all the membership for the support that they have given to the NEC and the Union since last Annual Conference and hope that the unity of purpose will remain when we return to progress our policies from Conference 2008

Brian Caton
General Secretary