National Chair

June 2015 | 16.06.2015

Pay

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IN THE SECOND WEEK OF MARCH, THE PRISON SERVICE PAY REVIEW BODY PUBLISHED THEIR RECOMMENDATIONS FOR 2015/16.


The recommendations were accepted by the Coalition Government. Staff within the Fair and Sustainable structures received a 1.8 percent pay rise. There was a recommendation of a nil pay award for 85 percent of the POA remit group.

These recommendations confirm yet again the utter contempt that these self-serving bureaucrats have for operational grades at pay maxima who work in the public sector prison service. In failing to take into account the evidence produced by the POA and others, the Pay Review Body have once again proved to be the puppets to the puppet masters at the Treasury. Please take the time to read the report, which in its construction, is designed to fit a predetermined position.

POA members face danger in the course of their working day. They can be asked, and at times be expected, to place themselves at risk to protect the public and the prisoners in our care. They can be ordered to attend for duty, on occasion hundreds of miles from their official place of work. They have restrictions placed on their private lives and outside interests. POA members are held accountable for their actions when not in work. We are essential workers who have the powers of a constable but we remain unrecognised as such and continue to be seen and treated as second class citizens within the public sector.

In order to avoid providing POA members with even a derisory one percent consolidated pay award the justifications within the report are disingenuous but inventive. This year, the Pay Review Body have not only moved the goalposts but dismantled them and taken them away. Last year, a consolidated pay award was given in order to address issues of morale and motivation but not this year. Given that this year we have seen intractable issues with recruitment and retention, and that the NOMS strategy to address these issues is undoubtedly fl awed, then there had to be a consolidated pay rise across the remit group.

The Prison Service Pay Review Body will not recognise that they are supposedly a compensatory measure for the arbitrary removal of the trade union rights of operational grades in the public sector prison service. As a consequence, at this year’s POA Annual Conference emergency motion 10b Durham was passed by the delegates to the effect that:

We withdraw from the Pay Review Body in light of the 2015 Pay Review Body recommendation.

This motion was supported by the executive and reinforced by emergency motion 10d Hatfield that in ceasing to give submissions to the Pay Review Body the NEC seek a return to collective bargaining on pay.

POA AND NOMS 2015 AGREEMENT


IN MARCH, THE EXECUTIVE NEEDED TO DEVELOP A STRATEGY TO ADDRESS TWO SPECIFIC ISSUES ON BEHALF OF THE MEMBERSHIP. FOLLOWING ON FROM THE RECOMMENDATIONS ON PAY FOR 2015/2016 A REPORT BY THE HOUSE OF COMMONS JUSTICE COMMITTEE WAS HIGHLY CRITICAL OF SAFETY AND DECENCY IN PRISONS.

The findings by the cross-party committee had followed a year-long enquiry. The report re-confirmed many of the concerns that have been raised consistently by the POA, the Chief Inspector of Prisons, the Independent Monitoring Board and any number of penal pressure groups within the criminal justice system. The committee expressed “grave concern” with the numbers of assaults on prison staff and prisoners between 2012 and 2014. Concerns were raised about indiscipline, deaths in custody and self-harm in prisons. The report was a damning indictment of the management of the prison service.

Following on from the report the executive advised the employer that it had 28 days to address issues concerning safe systems of work and risk assessments within prisons. A failure to do so would result in the executive advising its membership what measures they should personally take to prevent or reduce risks to the health and safety of themselves, staff and the prisoners in our care. There can be no doubt that this circular and the publicity engendered by our press releases encouraged the employer to enter into negotiations with the trade union.

Following a meeting with the then Justice Secretary these negotiations were expanded to cover issues as identified in the POA and NOMS 2015 Agreement. As National Chairman, and on behalf of the executive, I would encourage members to consider the contents and consequences of the agreement. It is important that I point out to the membership that the executive did not use genuine concerns with health and safety to address longstanding issues with regard to pay and pensions. The POA and NOMS 2015 Agreement is not about a consolidated pay award, it could never be about pay given that the recommendations for 2015/2016 had been accepted in full by the Coalition Government. A responsible trade union would never use health and safety legislation as a weapon of choice to address issues of pay. Again, the executive recognises that if it were ever to be established that a trade union had adopted such a strategy it would be both damaging and self-defeating.

Going forward, NOMS and the POA are committed to working together to ensure that appropriate risk assessments and safe systems of work are in place within the workplace. There will be a full and joint review of progress in July 2015.

The agreement contains a commitment to collective bargaining in pay and related issues for the first time in many years.

Of course, I do recognise that these arrangements cannot be described as collective bargaining in its purest form as the POA are unable to take legal industrial action at the conclusion of negotiations with the employer where no agreement had been agreed.

Nevertheless with these commitments to collective bargaining, the aim is to replace imposition with agreement on the reward and retention of closed grades at pay maxima, the reward structure at difficult to recruit prisons, the rate payable for payment plus, OSG reward, retention and recruitment. The POA and NOMS 2015 Agreement is a significant step to where we want and need to be as a trade union.

The retention and recruitment bonus within the agreement is a pittance and scant reward for the contribution of the closed grades but it is more than we had, and the POA is not in the habit of rejecting monies. As this article is prepared for publication negotiations on a retention and recruitment bonus for OSGs are at an advanced stage. The delay has in part been because of the need for the POA and NOMS to establish accurate data. In addition, and reflective of the collective bargaining arrangements there are now two options on the table which will have to be assessed by the executive prior to dissemination to the membership.

Furthermore, the agreement makes reference to the continued commitment to a joint business case for consideration by the government in relation to the pensionable age of prison officers. The executive remain confident that the POA will achieve concessions in relation to the pension age. There can be no guarantees on the outcome of discussions with ministers but an agreed position with the employer would have to be seen as a significant step in the right direction. The joint business case is at an advanced stage of preparation and will be ready for submission by the summer.
 

 

PJ McParlin
National Chairman