National Chair

August 2017 | 25.07.2017




As I contemplate the hung Parliament and all the issues that it brings, I find myself hoping that we can eventually deal with a government, whoever they may be, that shows this membership and Union the respect it deserves and actually delivers on the warnings we regularly communicate to them.

The same issues continue and will not go away until we sit around the table and negotiate a sensible position.

By the time you read this article, I am hoping that the planned meeting with the new Secretary of State has been fruitful and we have persuaded him to abandon any plans to pursue a permanent injunction against this Union. To do so would be less than productive and as a Union, I believe we would be forced to react to such a threat to our rights.

POA protecting members

I am hoping that the new Secretary of State realises that forcing operational prison officers to work past the age of 60 is simply impractical and staff deserve to enjoy retirement and not risk dying in service. I would also hope that he would agree that ignoring closed grade staff who have been subject to a seven year pay freeze is repugnant, and it’s about time they were recognised and afforded a consolidated rise. If they are ignored any longer then, as a Union, we have to force the issue.

I would also hope that violence against all staff that work in prisons shows a decrease and those jails that have increased staffing levels because of the recruitment drive are benefitting by improved safety statistics. One assault on staff is one too many, but if they continue to worsen, then this membership will be left with little choice but to protect themselves. This Union, if the employer fails to, will protect its membership.


As I visit branches I am totally impressed by the members I meet and their professionalism and commitment despite difficult working conditions. I am impressed by their enthusiasm for this Union and I know that if we continue to show unity, we have a good chance of achieving better working conditions for all.

I also notice the severe lack of visibility from senior managers. Too often, staff are left to deal with issues that the mere sight of a manager could resolve. If we are to truly change the dynamics of our jails, then managers must take some responsibility and step up to the mark, get around the wings and support their staff instead of continuing to look for petty charges to throw at them.

All too often, some managers forget their roots. It’s important that we support each other.

Smoke-free environments

As the summer months embrace us and the smoking cessation programme accelerates, I sincerely hope that our great leaders have put adequate support mechanisms in place for prisoners so staff do not bear the brunt of their frustrations. Feedback from smoke free sites tells us that with the appropriate level of support, the potential for unrest is greatly diminished. This is something we have to get right. Staff have a right to work in a smoke-free environment and waiting since 2007 to achieve this like workers in other industries, is simply too long a wait.


This of course, does little to protect our members from the inhalation and unknown long-term effects of NPS. The employer is slow to react and if local policies and lack of management interventions fail to address our concerns, then we will have to ensure the safety of all POA members no matter what that takes.

The safety of POA members is non-negotiable.

I would like to finish by thanking the branches I have visited for the hospitality I have been shown, and also thank you all for the continued support, passion and opinion you continue to give to this Union.

We will continue to fight for the issues that frustrate you the most. Stay safe.

Mark Fairhurst
Acting National Chair