General Secretary

June 2010 | 23.06.2010

Steve Gillan - Gatelodge, June 2010


It is a great privilege and honour in becoming the Unions 6th General Secretary.  Our Annual Conference finished on Friday 14th May and tribute was made to the outgoing General Secretary Brian Caton.

It was recognised by Conference the outstanding work of Brian Caton and he was awarded Honorary Life Membership of this Union in recognition of that work.  Annual Conference also recognised the outstanding contributions of both Don Wood and Derek Turner who are both retiring by awarding them Honorary Life Membership.

As Mick O’Dwyer stated, they will now join us on the back benches.  I am sure all three individuals will enjoy their retirement and I wish them a healthy and prosperous retirement.

This Conference also recognised the outstanding bravery of two of our members by awarding them the Mabel Hempton Award those being Neil Walker of HMP Frankland and David Wingfield of HMP Low Newton.

Conference also recognised the distinguished service at branch level of Mick Roe HMP Bullwood Hall, Brian Harrison HMP YOI Castington and Rob Bowman HMP & YOI New Hall and all three were awarded Cronin Clasps.

A new coalition Government has been formed by the Conservative/ Liberal Democrats parties, we know that Ken Clarke is the Justice Minister.  The POA look forward to working with Ministers to ensure that POA member’s interests are addressed and maintained.

The economic climate is known by everyone, but it was not created by POA members and we need to ensure that we in the public sector do not become scapegoats on the road for economic recovery.  The greedy bankers and speculators unabated were allowed to do what they wanted.  The bubble burst banks were bailed out at our expense and even now they are still receiving larges bonuses.  That is not just immoral, but wrong.  We have watched at cuts to public sector workers in Greece, Portugal, Spain and Republic of Ireland and we wait to see what this administration have in store for our hard working members.

Michael Spurr takes over as Chief Executive of NOMS when Phil Wheatley retires.  Mr Spurr was invited to Conference and he spoke about achievements of the past and the difficulties of the future.  I was given the opportunity to respond on behalf of the POA to him.  You will be able to read what I said in our Verbatim Report, but in essence we look forward to working with him.  The POA want to have good industrial relations and we will continue to strive for that to occur.  The Union has as opportunity along with the Employer to make that a reality, but our health and safety is not for compromise nor is our opposition to private operators bidding for our prisons in this dreadful process of Market Testing.  I also told Mr Spurr about the dangers of Job Evaluation Systems and Specification/Benchmarking processes if not negotiated properly with the POA.

To his credit he has been brave enough after the horrific incidents at HMP Frankland and HMP Leeds to want to sign up jointly with this Union on zero tolerance to violence.  He has taken the first steps on removing glass items from the high security estate and all closed establishments.  He is also carrying out a review of our policy on stab proof vests along with personal protective equipment.

The next few years are going to be difficult, but if the membership sticks together then we can move forward together with confidence.  There can be no room for side issues in the POA.  Over the last 20 years we have been riddled with internal disputes.  I have not become your General Secretary to become distracted by administering internal complaints.  I do not want a situation that whilst we are busy at the front door negotiating with our respective employers and Government we are continually watching the back door with internal distractions which deflect the Executive from the job they are supposed to be doing on your behalf.

I look forward to being your General Secretary.  These are demanding times that will unfold in the coming months.  Together we will come through them and we will be a stronger trade union moving forward.

I will not make any rash promises or predictions but we now have conference mandates to assist us in the process of protecting and promoting the interest of all POA members irrespective of where they work or what grade they are.  We must never be afraid to utilise those mandates to protect our health and safety and terms and conditions.

The POA has become a strong voice in trade union circles.  Our campaigns need to gain momentum and we need to be more organised at every level of the Union, closer links will be developed and nurtured with other trade unions.

Yours sincerely


Steve Gillan
General Secretary