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June 2015 | 15.06.2015
A CONSERVATIVE MAJORITY
ALL THE FORECASTS AND SO-CALLED ‘EXPERT S ’ CALLED THE OUTCOME OF THE GENERAL ELECTION WRONG.
The exit polls indicated a Conservative majority and they were correct. Having listened to some commentators criticise democracy of first past the post elections; suggesting that there should be perhaps proportional representation within the British system really matters not one jot. The fact is that the Conservatives have won a majority and this Union will work with those in power. I am not convinced that if Labour had won the election, the outlook would have been any different, it would have just been austerity dressed up as something else.
The Ministry of Justice has a new Secretary of State in Michael Gove and we welcome him to his new post. As I stated at Conference in my closing speech, we are not looking for confrontation with the Minister, quite the reverse, we want good, constructive negotiations that give POA members the respect that they deserve. On 27 May 2015, in a telephone conversation with the National Chairman and myself, Michael Gove echoed our wishes for constructive dialogue. Of course, we are not going to agree all the time but I am sure we can manage ourselves in a professional manner and we look forward to working with the Secretary of State and indeed Andrew Selous, the Prisons Minister.
CONFERENCE 2015: SOUTHPORT
AS I NOW ENTER MY SECOND TERM AS YOUR GENERAL SECRETARY WE WILL FACE MAJOR CHALLENGES OVER THE NEXT FIVE YEARS. I ASK THAT MEMBERS ACROSS THE UNITED KINGDOM READ THE VERBATIM REPORT, AND INDEED ASSESS AND UNDERSTAND THE MOTIONS THAT HAVE BEEN CARRIED BY OUR DELEGATES ON YOUR BEHALF.
This years’ Conference found POA delegates more united than I have seen over the last few years which is pleasing, as there is no better trade union in the land when we are together and focused on the real issues.
Conference passed crucial motions that will have an impact on detached duty and any threat of compulsory transfers and redundancies. On the issue of detached duty, I am amazed that NOMS have not found a solution to the problem. Over the last eighteen months or so, the National Executive Committee has given solutions and answers to the problems. It isn’t rocket science but the NOMS board don’t appear to be listening. They boast that they have recruited 1,700 new recruits but can do little to stop 80 officers per month leaving the service. The reality is, that in key areas, they are not paying enough to retain people in this occupation.
The Prison Service is not a business and shouldn’t be treated as such. We are providing a service to the public in keeping them safe yet at the same time, we had a Pay Review Body that recommended nothing for 80 percent of our members. Conference made the correct decision in telling us to pull out of the Pay Review Body as they have treated the remit group unfairly, not just this year but also in previous years. The quality of our evidence could not have been better but in my view, they did not want to rock the boat and bite the hand that feeds them, which of course is the Government, their paymasters.
OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND?
AT THE T I M E OF WRITING THIS ARTICLE , THE QUEEN’S SPEECH HAS BEEN DELIVERED WHICH WILL HAVE ISSUES PERTAINING TO THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM.
Having recently attended the Police Federation Conference where they have lost over 17,000 police officers the Home Secretary accused the Federation of scaremongering and crying wolf over the cuts and ruled there would be more reform (or ‘cuts’ as I like to call it).
The Police service, like our service, is not scaremongering nor crying wolf. The level of violence in the police, NOMS and NHS is on the increase. I hope our Secretary of State, Mr Gove, recognises and listens to our concerns on not only violence against our members, but also violence between prisoner and prisoner.
During the last 12 months, there have been no fewer than eight suspected murders within our prisons, which are currently under investigation, that really is a sad state of affairs and should not be tolerated. Yet there is no human outcry regarding the levels of violence within our prison walls.
Perhaps that is a reflection on society. During the General Election not one political party mentioned our prison service. It would appear to be ‘out of sight, out of mind’. It really isn’t a good scenario. A society can be measured by how it treats prisoners and indeed how it treats each other. I want a prison service that has the tools to do what it says on the tin. I want prisons to become places where good rehabilitative work is taking place that leads to our communities being safer places. I want a service to be proud of and for our members to be treated with professionalism and respect no matter what grade or where they work.
This respect for the work that we do in keeping society safe should not be underestimated or taken for granted. POA members are professional people and should be treated as such. Over the next five years, I want to throw a challenge down to this Government which is about professionalising POA members and treating them with respect.
Stop the damaging cuts and start to invest in the service and you will find by doing so that you will have a service that is once again the envy of the world. The POA will work with you to achieve it but we will not stand back and be bullied or intimidated where cuts to our service place our members or indeed prisoners in our care in danger.
POA General Secretary