General Secretary

December 2014 | 17.12.2014

Nurses at Rampton, Ashworth and Broadmoor stand firm over pay

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On 24 October 2014, POA members at Rampton, Ashworth and Broadmoor took strike action on pay after the Government reneged on a recommendation made by the NHS Pay Review Body in England.

Carstairs did not need to take action and were not balloted because NHS Scotland paid the award in full. The strike was called from 7am to 11am on that day and there was solid action at all three sites. I am extremely proud of our members in the secure hospitals because all too often our magazine focuses on prisons but our members in the NHS, like our members in our prisons, do a very important and dangerous job on behalf of society to keep them safe.

That should never be underestimated and our members at the secure psychiatric hospitals should not be treated in the manner they are by this Government. This will not be easily won and at the time of writing this article, further strike action with 11 other health unions has been called for 24 November 2014 again with a 7am to 11am strike action. The POA will continue to coordinate this action, if necessary with other unions into 2015.

Our argument is not with the employer on this occasion but a Secretary of State who thinks he can bully and intimidate health workers and indeed, POA members. Mr Hunt has chosen not to have a dialogue with the health unions so far on this issue so therefore the action continues. The media were extremely kind to NHS workers and I believe the general public are very sympathetic to our plight. It would appear that the Government (while justifying their own 10¬percent pay recommendation for themselves) is treating health workers with contempt.

What economic recovery?

On the subject of pay the POA, along with other unions, took part in TUC-organised rallies in London, Glasgow and Belfast. The TUC march and rally was under the banner of “Britain needs a pay rise”. Let us be clear on this issue as we head into 2015, since this Government was elected, average household incomes have fallen. For some within the POA their take home pay has dropped by 20 percent in real terms as a result of pay constraint and additional pension contributions. The Government’s own data shows 80 percent of households were worse off last year, yet some commentators would have us believe there was an economic recovery. I am certain that economic recovery does not apply to my members who work in the public and private sector.

Yet it isn’t all bad news for everyone. I¬ reaffirm what I stated in my last article; for the 1,000 wealthiest Britons times are good. Their collective wealth increased by £70¬billion in the last year alone. Let us put it in context, it’s enough to give every working person in the UK a pay rise of £2,000. Do not be fooled into believing the money is not available because it clearly is available.

That is why it is correct for our members to take strike action in the NHS. We will also be very carefully watching about the recommendations of the Pay Review Body for our members in the prison service. Separate negotiating arrangements are in place for HMP Oakwood, HMP Birmingham and HMP Northumberland with their respective ¬employers.

Pension justice for POA members

On 19 November 2014, the POA launched a work related stress and wellbeing survey. This piece of work was commissioned by the Executive after Francis Maude did a u-turn after agreeing to a tripartite study of the effects of working up to the age of 68 years on POA members. The tripartite study was supposed to be done by Cabinet Office, employer and trade union but Mr Maude decided to renege on that decision simply because the POA rejected through a workplace ballot so called pension reform.

The NEC contacted Bedford University and so Dr Gail Kinman, Dr Andrew Clements and Jacqui Hart began a confidential study of our members and produced an independent report of their findings. The POA launched the findings in the House of Commons as part of our ongoing campaign for pension justice for our members. The results are astonishing:

  • The findings of this survey of POA members demonstrate that the employing bodies in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, along with the NHS and immigration services, are not meeting the minimum standards recommended by the UK Health and Safety (HSE) for the management of employees’ work related wellbeing;
  • Less than seven percent rate the quality of their on the job training as very good or excellent, while more than half (57 percent) consider it to be poor or very poor;
  • A considerable majority (79 percent) are extremely dissatisfied with their opportunities for promotion;
  • Seven out of every 10 respondents to the survey said that they regret their choice of job, and over 60 percent are considering leaving the prison sector in the near future;
  • POA members report considerably higher levels of psychological distress than other occupational groups including “emotionally demanding” professions such as the police and social work;
  • 84 percent of respondents indicated that they felt under pressure to come into work when they were unwell;
  • POA members are considerably more satisfied with the support they receive from colleagues than managers. Support from colleagues frequently helps them manage the demanding nature of the work; and
  • The majority of respondents expressed concern that working beyond the age of 60 will adversely affect their ability to do their job, with 75 percent of the sample indicated that working after 60 would impair their job performance.

The POA will not rest and will continue to campaign for pension justice. We urge Government to open dialogue in the New Year with regards to reducing the pension age for prison officers and those nurses in the secure hospitals.

As we now come to the end of 2014, I would like to wish all POA members and their loved ones a happy Christmas and success for the New Year. Let us all hope that 2015 brings much needed respite for our members and their families. I would also like thank all members for their continued support.

 

Steve Gillan
General Secretary