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Looking back over the past year is one of reflection and the most positive action that we took was on the 20th March 2019 when proud POA members marched from Trafalgar Square stopping at Downing Street and then Parliament. We even decided to take a detour and march down to the Ministry of Justice and hold a demonstration outside Petty France.
The general public were very supportive tooting their vehicle horns and POA members even engaged with Brexiteers and Remainers outside Parliament and at least the Brexiteers and Remainers were united in support of POA members, which was heartening. This march was important and featured in a Gatelodge Extra. The theme of our march and rally was protests over violence in the workplace, retirement age and prison privatisation and it was pleasing to see hundreds of POA members in attendance. This is the value of having a political fund endorsed by the membership so that we can continue to campaign on the issues that are valuable to you.
CROSS PARTY SUPPORT
The POA had politicians from all the main parties speak at the rally. Great support from Plaid Cymru where we had support from Liz Saville Roberts. Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede also had warm words. Gordon Henderson MP the sole Conservative party member marched with our members. Chris Stephens MP and representative of the SNP and Labour MPs such as Dennis Skinner, John Mc Donnell, Richard Burgon, Laura Pidcock and Imran Hussain. All these individuals are on the shadow cabinet and all have committed to the POA aims and objectives which is a restoration of trade union rights, collective bargaining, restoring private prisons to the public sector and a decent pension age. I suppose it is easy to pledge things but it would appear the shadow cabinet are listening and not afraid to say and pledge these things publicly but only time will tell if that will ever occur or indeed be delivered but we must continually campaign for the policies that have been set by Conference.
At the time of writing this article a General Election has been called for 12th December 2019. By the time this Gatelodge is published we could have either another Conservative Government or indeed a totally different Government. Clearly POA members will need to make up their own mind who they vote for and the POA will work with any Government the British public elect. Our aims and objectives will not change and no matter who is in Government this trade union no doubt will have our disagreements with them. That is why there is no point in “looking back” our narrative must be looking forward and setting out our clear strategies for the future irrespective of who forms Government. The POA no doubt will look to do this come our next annual conference in May 2020.
Our members across the United Kingdom irrespective of where they work want a workplace that isn’t violent, terms and conditions, pay and pension age that is fair and appropriate for the job that we do. POA members are professional people and on the whole respectful and they wish that to be reciprocated in the workplace by all politicians.
RESPECT FOR OTHERS
Looking forward to 2020 and beyond the POA membership and the NEC working together must strive to have workplaces that see a massive reduction in violence. No one should face violence at work. No one should go to work knowing that they may get assaulted and POA members are no exception.
On the issue of Brexit that position will become clearer but my position as General Secretary has always been clear it doesn’t matter how our membership voted. Many will have voted to leave and many will have voted to remain. The issue isn’t that as each of our members and their families will have their own reason for voting in a particular manner and that should be respected, the real issue is maintaining and bettering workers rights. That is the real worry that there may be an eradication of workers rights and we as a trade union must stand solid to ensure that does not happen.
I have noticed over a period of time particularly on social media that depending on how people have voted either remain or leave in Brexit or political party or alliance to a particular party that abuse levels have gone up. It isn’t smart and I sincerely hope that our members desist from it. We live in a democracy and whatever the outcome of that vote whether in Brexit, General Election, or indeed Trade Union elections there should be respect for each and every person’s view and indeed how people vote. The country would be a far better place if there was respect shown and indeed tolerance to individuals having a differing view.
A STRONG TRADE UNION
In respect of the POA I have noticed social media sites spiralling into uncontrollable cesspits. I want to make it clear the POA will not tolerate abuse and where individuals breach our rules and constitution causing harm and distress then the matter will be dealt with in an appropriate manner. If we are to demand respect, then we need to show respect to each other and have tolerant attitudes to differing views.
I always believe in a cup being half full rather than half empty and believe that the POA can and will grow to be stronger and more influential in the coming years but in order to do so we need all POA members to play their part as after all it is your trade union. So, moving forward into 2020 and beyond let the POA play its part in the trade union movement to ensure all our members and their families are safeguarded in everything that we do.
I will take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy Christmas and a prosperous and healthy New Year.
Representing over 30,000 Prison, Correctional and Secure Psychiatric Workers, the POA is the largest UK Union in this sector, able to trace its roots back more than 100 years.