National Chair

Winter 2019 | 13.12.2019

Positive action positive change

MARKFAIRHURST.jpg

Your union is much more than just a diary


As the year draws to a close, I would like to take this opportunity to reflect on the positive gains the POA have achieved since the beginning of the y ear. I often get frustrated with unwarranted comments and criticisms, especially on social media, that get directed at national officials. The adage that members have the most expensive diary in the world could not be more misguided.

POSITIVE ACTION POSITIVE CHANGE

At the beginning of the year the Executive decided to take positive action due to the injustice many members faced when being involved in the disciplinary process. Many decisions made by senior managers were malicious and unwarranted. Natural justice was not applied, and our members were subject to biased and unfair procedures that often led to their dismissal. The NEC decided to withdraw from all talks and negotiations with the employer until they acknowledged that the problems were real. We also instructed local branches to do the same. As time progressed the employer decided that our concerns warranted urgent attention and as we reengaged a meeting was convened. This has resulted in the employer reviewing the policy and we await them forwarding a re-drafted conduct and discipline policy. Since this stance we are aware of many members that have won appeals against dismissal.

POSITIVE ACTION POSITIVE CHANGE

We also highlighted the injustice in pay when our members gained promotion into Fair and Sustainable and had their 2 hours removed, effectively placing them on a 37-hour week and decreasing their pay. Due to our determination to rectify this the employer agreed to reinstate 2 hours ACHP for those bands 3-5, including industrial grades, who had suffered a detriment. This meant that many POA members received pay justice.

POSITIVE ACTION POSITIVE CHANGE

We held a successful rally on 20th March which was well attended by hundreds of members. We gained vast support from a wide variety of politicians from all sides of the house. Here we highlighted the levels of violence we faced and the impracticality of working in our environment into our sixties. This has resulted in a commitment from at least one political party to reinstate our retirement age of 60. This rally also helped us gain pressure to give us effective personal protection at work and the roll out of PAVA is now widely supported politically.

POSITIVE ACTION POSITIVE CHANGE

The successful Berryman case enabled all members to increase their overtime pay and many members enjoyed a lump sum payment due to our positive challenge in court. Moving forward all overtime payments will be subject to holiday pay which can now be easily claimed via the online claims system at work.

POSITIVE ACTION POSITIVE CHANGE

The POA challenged the employer in court over their insistence that proposals to introduce a professional qualification in the Youth Custody Estate would only need consultation because it did not affect our members terms and conditions. During the court hearing Judge Kerr confirmed that we were correct in lodging a national dispute and backed up the POA by stating that the changes did indeed constitute changes to the terms and conditions of our members. This then led to negotiations which in turn proved successful as the affected membership were balloted and voted in favour of the proposals. This led to not only a professional qualification in the Youth Custody Estate but a pay rise for those staff as well.

POSITIVE ACTION POSITIVE CHANGE

In turn this has led to ongoing negotiations about a new dispute’s resolution procedure, OMiC negotiations and proposals for an Advanced Prison Officer role.

POSITIVE ACTION POSITIVE CHANGE

In April our protracted campaign to return HMP Birmingham into public sector ownership finally yielded results when we welcomed our brothers and sisters back into the public fold. There is no doubt whatsoever, that without our intervention and meetings with government ministers, this would never have taken place. The right decision was made, and this is a result we should all be rightly proud of.

POSITIVE ACTION POSITIVE CHANGE

The Executive became aware of some members having pension contributions taken from Tornado pay. After our intervention those affected members were reimbursed and the issue was corrected.

POSITIVE ACTION POSITIVE CHANGE

The roll out of PAVA, rigid bar handcuffs and SPEAR training is now taking effect across the estate. Whilst I acknowledge that this is still too slow, we have public and political support for the roll out and we continue to pressurise the employer to speed up its delivery.

This is due to our proactive stance, and the fantastic result the membership demonstrated to us during the indicative ballot, where we had a 64% turnout and 95% in favour of supporting legal action to get PAVA rolled out effectively. When did any of us ever envisage we would be issued with PAVA?

POSITIVE ACTION POSITIVE CHANGE

We have proactively engaged with all forms of media, resulting in numerous appearances on major news channels and a video launch in support of our ‘68 is too late campaign’ which has been viewed in excess of half a million times.

POSITIVE ACTION POSITIVE CHANGE

During this year the NEC agreed with the employer a crime in prisons protocol which ensures that the rights of staff when they are subject to assaults at work are respected. We are already witnessing positive results including sentences that have been doubled due to our campaign to introduce the Assault on Emergency Workers Bill into legislation.

POSITIVE ACTION POSITIVE CHANGE

We are soon to run our own research into the effects of psychoactive substances on staff in our prisons. Two sites have been chosen and we have commissioned an expert in the field on NPS from Bournemouth University to conduct the work. This is due to start in the new year.

POSITIVE ACTION POSITIVE CHANGE

The Executive is working on a dispute surrounding the OMiC model in the open and female estate. We will not agree anything until our members in these estates are fully protected and not subject to adverse working conditions. Without our intervention the employer’s proposals would have been imposed on our members.

POSITIVE ACTION POSITIVE CHANGE

Our pensions challenge is gathering pace and we await negotiations with the Government to hopefully reinstate our original pension schemes pre 2015. Without our proactive approach on this issue we would not now be at the front of the queue. We have already gained a minor victory with regards to members who are currently accessing the ill health retirement process or have accepted IHR post 2015 pension changes. They will now be considered on their original pension scheme. This means many members and former members will gain significant financial benefits.

POSITIVE ACTION POSITIVE CHANGE

The contempt of court charges we faced in October have been stayed due to our legal challenge against the permanent high court injunction. We argued that the permanent injunction breaches our human rights and a judge has decreed that this argument must be heard prior to any contempt proceedings. Again, we are being proactive and fighting for our rights.

POSITIVE ACTION POSITIVE CHANGE

We are due in court in December to fight a contempt charge due to members at HMP Lindholme protecting their health and safety. We will never back down in support of any member who is at risk in their workplace.

POSITIVE ACTION POSITIVE CHANGE

And finally! We got the most expensive diary in the world correct this year! Delivered to branches on time, in abundance, with no dates missing and with a cover intact!

Until next time, stay safe, look after each other and respect and solidarity to you all.

Mark Fairhurst
National Chair