General News, Articles and Information from The POA North of the Border:


POA (Scotland) Special Kilmarnock Edition: May 2009


This newsletter has been compiled by the POA Scottish National Committee. You may have noticed that in recent months the POA have been visiting your establishment asking you to join; in effect this has been the beginnings of a major recruitment drive from the private sector in Scotland. During the visits many of you have found the time to chat with us and we have taken onboard your views and opinions, some of which, although not all, were negative towards the POA. Although we understand that everyone is entitled to their opinions, we found that some of the comments made were ill informed and inaccurate. This newsletter has been produced to provide you with the facts about the POA, what benefits there are to being a member and why you should consider joining.

Please do not think of this as a cheap propaganda exercise, all we ask, is that you read this newsletter, consider its contents and when you’ve done so decide what’s best for you as an individual.

We have done our best to answer many of the questions that have been asked of us and have included some additional information that may be of benefit to you, including contact details, so before you file it under B1N please have a read and give joining the POA some consideration.

1) Why does the POA want to recruit members in the private sector?

The policy of the POA is to actively recruit members from all areas within the Justice sectors in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland in the public and private sectors. This includes Prisons and Special hospitals (for example the State Hospital at Carstairs). The POA have many members currently working in the Private Sector and the numbers are continuing to increase. The following is a list of Private sector prisons and areas that have POA membership:-

Altcourse, Ashfield, Kilmarnock, Bronzefield, Doncaster, Dovegate, G.S.L/I.C.E/G.4.S, Harmondsworth, Hassockfield, Forest Bank, Lowdham, Medway, Oakhill, Oakington S.T.C, Parc, Prem Area 2, Prem Area 5, Reliance Area 1, Rye Hill, G.E.O Immigration, Tinsley, Woulds Yarls Wood.

It should be stressed that an individual has the right to join any trade union of their choice or not to be a member of any trade union at all, it is all down to the individual to make the decision, however we believe that being a member of a trade union can offer security and support and peace of mind when required. In effect it can be seen as an insurance policy, if you don’t need to use it then everything is fine and dandy, however if you do need it then something is wrong, and the reality is, it’s only then we appreciate the need for the policy and why we’ve paid into it, and as stated the same can be said for being a member of a trade union.

Some of you may remember an advert a few years ago of a mouse shouting up to an elephant, only to be ignored because he couldn’t, or was chosen not to be heard, that was until he was joined by many other mice who when shouting together couldn’t be ignored. When you are a member of a trade union you are one of a large group of people who, when standing together are a force difficult to ignore, in the case of the POA you would be a member of a group of 36,000 individuals throughout the whole of the United Kingdom. There are many other benefits to being a member of a trade union which in these times of financial difficulties can be appreciated more than ever.

Being a member of the POA in Scotland also offers legal cover, and access to the Scottish legal advisors Levy and McRae, and more detail of this can be seen in this newsletter.

2) How much does it cost to be in the POA and what are the benefits of being in the POA?

To be a member of the POA in Scotland costs £18.00 a month. To many people this is a lot, however this includes paying into a legal cover which provides access to the organisation’s legal scheme, including access to the Scottish legal advisors Levy and McRae.

Levy and McRae is a world renowned firm of solicitors who are based in Glasgow and have a track record second to none. For more information on the POA Legal Advisors in Scotland, log on to

The legal cover is insurance and representation for you, and your family, of up to £100,000 and covers each individual on consumer disputes, criminal investigations, internal investigations, inmate allegations, discrimination, motor offences, industrial tribunals and industrial injury claims.

Another automatic benefit is £3000 being paid out to your designated next of kin or relative should death occur whilst in service. Perhaps death isn’t at the top of our to do list however unfortunately we have, and will continue to pay out this money to our members relatives, which has given them immediate peace of mind when paying for funeral expenses, again not something we want to think of, but it happens.

Other benefits you get for your money include:-
Discounted Annual Travel Insurance for the whole family,
Discounted home insurance,
Discounted motor insurance,
Discounted optical care,
Discounted health care plans,
Low cost personal loans,
POA tailored Visa card and access to independent financial advice.

Another benefit, that is new to all POA members, is access to the POA Scottish Union Learning Fund (SULF) which has been introduced to help members enhance learning and training opportunities (more information can be obtained by contacting

A benefit that was introduced for all POA members last year was the opportunity to seek medical treatment/therapy at the Jubilee House (Fire Fighters Charity) Centre at Penrith, Cumbria. This service can be applied for, and is free of charge, and will help any member with physical injuries, stress, anxiety and depression, post-operative recovery, strokes and neurological conditions and sports injuries. This initiative is a one or two week programme which provides physiotherapy and exercise therapy, psychological rehabilitation and health education, this service is new and open to all POA members.

Probably one of the most understated benefits to being a member of the POA is peace of mind in times of trouble. The reality is, in the job we do, and the environment we work in, difficult happen and knowing you are not alone when they do does gives real peace of mind and assurance, be it representation at a Code of Conduct, support during a grievance or general advice on any work related issues, to legal representation at a Fatal Accident Enquiry, being a member of the POA in Scotland offers you all this and more. So the reality is, when it does hit the fan, it may well be the best £18.00 a month you will spend.

3) How can the POA support staff in the private sector?

Anyone who joins the POA is guaranteed support and representation at all levels already mentioned. There are already a number of members who work in Kilmarnock, and in other areas in the Private Sector in Scotland, and they have accessed many areas that have been made available to them, including legal advice. Many have also been represented at Code of Conduct hearings, and so far the POA’s record at these hearings has been good, the reality being some individuals may not be in the job now if they were not a member and received the representation they got, that is a fact, and it is something we intend to prove further as we raise the profile of the POA in Kilmarnock. We will not refuse to represent an individual and when we do represent them they are guaranteed the best we can provide. The same can be said for other issues such as support for those who feel, bullied, victimised or who feel have been treated unfairly.

4) Will the POA improve the terms and conditions of staff in the private sector?

I wish I could answer yes to this question, however the honest answer at this point in NO. We wish we could have some input into your terms and conditions, but Serco do not need to negotiate with the POA because they do not recognise us as a Trade Union. The recognised trade union in Kilmarnock is the Prison Staff Union (PSU) and it is with them that Serco negotiate (or are supposed too). In the October 2008 edition of the POA magazine, The Gatelodge, our colleague Pete Chapple, who is on the POA National Executive Committee, gave an in depth rationale for not joining the PSU and his reasoning is difficult to dispel, especially for the PSU. The fact is the Certification Officers Website, which is open to public scrutiny, notes that the PSU had, as of 31/12/07, 5957 members UK wide and on the same date the POA had 36,172 UK wide. You do the maths!!!!!

Another point worth considering is why Serco recognise the PSU. To be honest we don’t know the reason, although it has been suggested to me it’s because they can do what they want, when they want and to who they want knowing that they won’t face the challenges that would normally expect to face. For example recent redundancies in Kilmarnock and what happened to your lunch hour???

Don’t get us wrong, if the POA was the recognised union we wouldn’t have you all out on strike and standing in the car parks demanding your rights no matter what, we would however look to the management to negotiate and if a compromise position couldn’t be found we would want to go to binding independent arbitration to resolve our disputes.

This is how we do business in Scotland, by discussion and negotiation; it’s called working in partnership where both sides treat each other as equal partners. A recent agreement signed off at Brook House Immigration Centre in England is based on that method, and it is, without doubt a fair and honest approach for all.

The POA Scottish National Committee has written to Serco recently to try and open the opportunity for recognition in Kilmarnock, however we do not expect them to immediately welcome us with open arms. We will, however continue to endeavour to gain recognition, it may not happen over night but it may happen one day.

6) Do the POA represent members in other private sector prisons?

This question has already been answered in question 1 and you will note that the list of private sector establishments with POA members is a large one and it is continuing to grow. The motto of the POA is “UNITY IS STRENGTH” and this is very much the case in the private sector.

However we will not rest on our laurels where we are and we will continue to strive not only to recruit members in private sector establishments but also to seek recognition agreements in them. As stated earlier this won’t happen over night but we will continue to try.

7) What is the POA’s position towards the private sector?

It has been suggested that the POA are against staff that work in private prisons, however that could not be further from the truth. The policy of the POA is to oppose private prisons as we believe it is morally wrong for a private company to profit from the incarceration of somebody, we also believe it is wrong for British Tax payers money to line the pockets of foreign businessmen and women, which is what happens in the case of private prisons. Any company exists to make a profit and to do so they must cut costs, in simple terms the less money Serco spend on staffing and other core elements in running the prison, the more profit they make.

The current Scottish Government, unlike their predecessors, has kept their promise to build public prisons in Scotland and the POA support this stance. We also believe that if possible, Kilmarnock and Addiewell and Reliance should be publicly run, we don’t want to see any prison closed or the terms and conditions of the staff who work in them eroded, in fact the opposite is the case, we want job security, enhanced terms and conditions for those in the private sector (to be at least on a par with those in the public sector) and we want to be the recognised trade union to represent that staff.

Please be assured we don’t want to see anyone lose their jobs.

8) Why is the POA actively recruiting in Kilmarnock?

Ever since the first private prison was opened (the Wolds in 1991) the POA have fought to represent members who work in the private sector, in fact it is written into the rules and constitution of the POA to actively recruit and seek recognition rights with your employer.

9) The benefits that the POA can bring to your family

The very fact that you are a member entitles your immediate family, living at your home, to receive the same legal benefits as you. For example a member’s wife has successfully received funding from the POA lawyers to take a major corporation to an employment tribunal. To do this privately, would’ve cost a considerable amount of cash.

10) Why join the POA instead of the PSU?

The POA has existed for 70 years and the only way we have achieved this, is by providing our members with a professional service. We understand the difficulties that being a prison officer can bring and we appreciate that the difficulties are extreme within private prisons. The POA do not like to belittle other trade unions, but we firmly believe that the PSU do not have the necessary skills to represent the members and can be seen as acting in the best interest of your employer.

11) Do the POA already have members in Kilmarnock?

Kilmarnock has existing members but we need to attract more people. Please ask our current members how they feel about the representation from the POA; the word of mouth has been positive as we provide an excellent service.

12) Do the POA want to close private prisons (including Kilmarnock)?

The answer is NO, we want the current private prisons to be put back into the public sector and have the existing workers reassigned to the Scottish Prison Service. The POA want to stop private companies profiting from crime. The POA want our private sector colleagues to have the same terms and conditions and staffing levels as the SPS employees. 13) Who do we contact for further information? John Speed and Phil Thomas are both members of the Scottish National Committee and are on the National POA Private Sector Committee. Please feel free to contact them at any time, or phone POAS Headquarters at Calder Road, Edinburgh. All contact numbers are on the back of this newsletter.


Scottish National Committee

David Melrose – Chairman
Phil Fairlie – Vice Chair
Stuart Simpson – Treasurer
Mick Grattan – Committee Member
Gordon Pike – Committee Member
John Speed – Committee Member
Phil Thomas – Committee Member


Full Time Officers

Derek Turner – Assistant Secretary
Jim Dawson – Assistant Secretary


Association Solicitors

Messrs Levy & McRae
266 St Vincent Street
G2 5RL
Telephone : - 0141 307 2311