General Secretary

January 2010 | 27.01.2010

Betrayal, Lies & Deceipt and not so fond farewells: Market Testing


There can be no mistake in anyone’s mind that the POA remains opposed to Market Testing of prison work, nor indeed of justice related work, or more generally the Public Services – or can there be???

The Union policy was clear going into Conference 2009 – unclear coming out of Conference – and seen as indecisive by a narrowly gained "yes" result of a ballot on Market Testing and Clustering.

So we continue with a philosophy of "get involved for the good of our members" in something that has the potential to remain not only a danger in itself but has an inherent dangerous ability to allow the use of intimidation in driving down resources available to our members to do their work and to drive down their Pay and Conditions of Service.

Will prison officers sit and be bullied into poor pay, poor conditions and bad treatment – like some kind of Cinderella figure – never being allowed to go to the ball, no new dress, no coach and horses and certainly no glass slipper. They will achieve more rags to wear and a loss of all that exists, apart from "mice and pumpkins".

The proposed threat to remove Escorts and Bedwatches from trained prison staff was dangerous beyond belief. The fact that the Parole Board recently refused to parole a paraplegic life sentenced prisoner, resulting in two prison officers being deployed to his bedside for months, stands witness to the real and inherent dangers posed by those of our prisoner population who are hospitalised.

So what of the POA’s involvement in the Market Testing process – some will remember the much heralded "you got to be in it to win it" and the bullying threat "if the POA don’t co-operate with the bid, it will be handed straight to the Private Sector" – what rubbish then and proven more rubbish now! The local bid teams used, abused and thrown to one side like "used oil rags" whilst NOMS continue to use the information gained to put together a national consensus (an auction) with the Private Sector on who will get what, and more importantly who won’t! An "auction" called on a day when the Public Sector won’t be present and another new phrase to ponder "competitive dialogue". Dialogue, with who I hear you ask? We wait to see!

We now know that the Director General, Phil (Zero Tolerance) Wheatley, CBE will be leaving NOMS at the end of his contract - a contractual position that has always been known (at least by those who employ him, if no one else) – but, he will not be lost to the POA as he will take up the role as non-executive member of the Northern Ireland Prison’s Board. So it calls upon me to comment – GOODBYE!

My view remains as always; if you do not fight you cannot win – if you do fight you might lose.

If you are bullied and keep fighting back you might hurt the bully – if you do not fight back against the bully, you have to wait for him to go away when he gets fed up or wishes to bully someone else.

We look forward to the announcement of a new Director General of NOMS and hope that whoever is appointed will bring a genuine desire to work constructively with Trades Unions and allow prison officers the authority to do their job but have for so long been denied.

We are now moving quickly towards a General Election; a General Election where politicians are at a low ebb! Indeed the expenses scandal, the Chilcott Inquiry into the Iraq War, and the failure to control the fat-cat bankers are all stacked against this "noble profession".

It is of course, with all that has gone before, easy to ignore the General Election and not to register your vote. This is exactly what bad politicians want to see and if this happens the country will be represented by bad politicians. So it is imperative that we all vote. POA members will make up their minds on which party to support. The POA has always stated that it is party politically neutral. However, there are a few guidelines that may help our members to determine who they will support in the General Election. These questions are specific to both the POA membership and the trades union movement in achieving a civil society. Ask the following questions to the candidate or the political party:

Are you in favour of public ownership and not privatised profit

Are you in favour of no cuts and a quality public service

Are you in favour of stopping global warming

Are you in favour of creating jobs and not giving handouts to bankers and billionaires

Are you in favour of employment and trades union rights and repeal of Thatcher’s anti-trades union laws

Are you in favour of protecting our environment

Are you in favour of decent state pensions and benefits

Are you in favour of democracy, diversity and justice

Are you in favour of world solidarity and not illegal wars

It is these issues that politicians need to take forward in the next decade and not the protection of a capitalist middle class state where the poor get poorer and the rich get richer.

At a recent NEC meeting it was determined that individual members may wish to support the Trades Union and Socialist Alliance candidates who are pledged to support the above. It is clear that any Tory Government or indeed a continuation of New Labour will be bad for POA members. Indeed the Liberal Party has recently changed its mind on so many planks of its policies that it is hard to know where they are going.

POA members must make up their own minds but don’t say I DON’T DO POLITICS.


So You Don’t Do Politics Don’t You ?