SCOTLAND: RE: GENERAL UPDATE

Firstly, can we begin with saying that this was not the year any of us expected or in fact have enjoyed. For those of you who have suffered directly due to the pandemic, our support and best wishes go to you. This year has seen most of our membership having to work in the most trying and worrying environment imaginable and managing to cope in a workplace which is such a high risk is a credit to every one of you. The role of the SNC has been to support you where necessary and ensure safe working practises are put in place to safeguard our membership throughout this pandemic.

At the very beginning of this we were honest enough to say that we were entering a completely unknow period, where mistakes would be made along the way due to the unchartered circumstances we faced, and we recognise some may well have been made. Please be assured though, that in every decision we take, the interests of the membership are always our priority. That said we have also achieved a great deal, including on the PPE front and we encourage you all to wear PPE and follow the Scottish Government guidance on handwashing, physical distancing etc.

Although the vast majority of what we have presented here is covered in the monthly SNC minutes, we thought it would be helpful to communicate and update you with our day to day working.

Attacks on Staff Cars
As a trade union we whole heartedly condemn the actions of the individuals who take this reckless action. They not only risk the lives of innocent people who are going about their daily duties they also cause massive disruption to individuals lives and this is not acceptable. After incidents at HMP Glenochil, HMP Low Moss and HMP Barlinnie-and in advance of the latest cowardly act at HMP Shotts the SNC contacted the SPS to raise our concerns and to determine what they intended putting in place to reduce the risk of these type of attacks taking place in future. SPS clearly share our concern and outlined steps they were in the process of taking in an effort to safeguard staff. They have written to all GIC’s regarding this (not sure if this has been sent out to you all) the gist of the response is SPS are working closely with Police Scotland, to share local intelligence and to see if there is a link within these cases. Advice has also been given at local level, assessing current practices to see if they can be enhanced to act as a deterrent. As an SNC we will continue to work with the employer on this to ensure they make the workplace (including car parks) as safe as they can be.

Control & Restraint
On many occasions throughout the year, we have been contacted by SPS to reinstate C&R and PPT for staff. As you can imagine, this has promoted discussion amongst ourselves. At the forefront of our minds is that this cannot happen due to physical distancing and general Covid restrictions to control the spread of the virus. However, contrary to that, can we allow our membership to run out of competency and therefore be open to challenge if involved in a removal? We came to the decision that we cannot support the recommencement of contact training and we informed the SPS of this. SPS have tried to source C&R training aids to support the delivery of the training but as yet, there is nothing we jointly agree can be used for C&R purposes. The SPS are going to look at designing a classroom-based refresher for staff. Once they have designed this it will be presented to us for review. As things currently stand, we are acutely aware that SPS set competency levels throughout all establishments are likely to be dropping. If you were to follow SPS guidance on planned removals, these should only be carried out by those in competency so have made representation to the employer for the need to extend C&R competency beyond the current 1-year period. The reason for this would be to safeguard our membership should you be required to participate in a C&R removal.

Workforce Planning
For many years’ Workforce Planning has been a source of frustration and/or confusion for us all with perceived shortfalls in staffing throughout all establishments. The workforce planning group was a feature of several motions at Scottish Conference 2019 due to the frustrations that were being felt. Throughout the Pandemic the SPS have continued to recruit into key roles within the service and as such are on course to have a staffing compliment within 1% of the staffing numbers. In terms of the overall compliment numbers, that is a position that has been the case for some time, albeit the confusion and frustration came from some of those compliments not being in the right places at the time of need. Hopefully within your work areas these issues have been addressed and you will notice the difference.

1st Aid Training
Like the C&R situation the SPS approached us regarding training for Operational staff in the aspects of 1st Aid at work. As this is predominantly classroom based, we quickly agreed this could resume however we required further clarification around the delivering of the more hands-on element of the training package. The difficulty surrounding this is the inevitable cross contamination and dual working fears that we were not content with. However, and in fairness the SPSC went away and designed a full package, including new “resuscitation Annie” manikins that enabled training to be delivered safely. The training was attended by a member of the SNC and with the new RA and SSOW that were designed, and we are satisfied that the training is able to be commenced. However, we would urge anyone doing the training to ensure ALL the H&S measures are carried out throughout the training.

Pay Award
As many of you are aware the TUS negotiated a 3 year pay rise, the final year of which will take effect and be implemented in April 2021. Given the various announcements from government, both at Westminster where they have announced a pay freeze, and in Holyrood where they have announced there will not be a pay freeze, but certainly some pay restraint, the multi-year deal has worked out very well for us in comparison and will ensure an on average 4% increase for the vast majority of our membership in a year where other sectors are struggling to obtain a remotely similar deal. You can access what the pay deal means to you on SPS SharePoint site.

Lateral Transfers
The SNC have approached SPS to ensure that a voluntary lateral transfer campaign is opened. We believe this should be done at regular periods throughout the year to ensure that staff have control of where exactly they want to work. Many things change in private lives and that mean a change in working life is required to support this. We will hopefully have a meeting set up soon to discuss this issue.

Attendance Patterns
Still undoubtedly the most important issue to our membership at this time and one that is not lost on the SNC. Without going over old ground that has been communicated throughout the pandemic, we must reiterate that the decision was taken with the H&S of our membership as the primary reason for doing so. We are in a more hopeful position now with things improving in society, coupled with the workforce planning update, that we could be in a position early in the New Year to approach SPS with a view to potentially discuss a timetable for a return to pre COVID attendance patterns. In the meantime, we hope you understand the reasons for the attendance pattern change and we thank you for patience and professionalism throughout this time. We understand these changes have gone on far longer than any of us anticipated and we are conscious of the stress and pressure some of you are feeling due to the attendance patterns. We are hopeful of being in a position sooner rather than later to timetable a return to our pre COVID attendance patterns and the gradual opening of the Prison regime will support us in doing this.

PFTA Updates
We currently have 6 PFTAs ongoing, these are-Emergency escorts SOP, Partnership working, Early courts funding, Working practices to enable Prisoners going to courts, First line manger E band resource and Dog handlers allowance.

We are still trying to arrange diary dates to discuss these and when we have information will be shared.

COVID Vaccine
As you are aware the roll out of the COVID vaccine has begun with NHS and Care homes at the front of the queue. The POAS has contacted SPS as we believe SPS staff should be one of the next groups of staff to be offered the vaccine. SPS have been in dialogue with Scottish government outlining where they see us fitting in to that priority list. We will update you all if and when we receive further information.

Grievance Outcome to Exceptional Payment Scheme Version 1
There were no fewer than 31 grievances raised regarding the wording of the “Exceptional payment Scheme” because there was a difference between the wording in the actual policy and the Q&A that followed. This led to staff waiting for a pro rata amount to be paid which never was. The SPS obviously recognised this issue as in version 2 of the policy they amended they wording to clarify this issue. We were disappointed to lose these grievances and although this matter has been resolved with SPS, we are awaiting legal advice to see if there is a further challenge that can be made.

SNC Reps to Establishments
As many of you will have seen the SNC reps for your establishments have been in attendance, although we fully understand the Government restrictions that are in place. We believe the nature of the travel to be ‘essential’ given the unique circumstances you are all faced with. We are acting in the interests of our membership and issues highlighted during these visits are raised with the relevant person. We hope these visits are helpful.

COVID Weekly Updates
As previously communicated the SNC are represented on National Coronavirus Response Group (NCRG) and we would ask you to give your attention to the weekly updates that are produced as any decisions or updates made are communicated via this.

Union Learning
The SNC have recently made an application to the STUC covering 2 years for funding for Trade Union Learning. Whilst carrying out this application it became apparent (supported by emails to LBC) that there were only 2 active Union Learning Reps for POA(s), at Polmont and Cornton Vale. Since then, we have managed to get a ULR in Dumfries. If successful in our bid, we have 2 courses that will benefit our membership directly; Gym instructors and Tactical writing. To get these courses to as wide a demographic as we can, we would ask if you are interested in becoming a ULR for your establishment, to speak with your LBC who will arrange a meeting to take place with SNC lead on this. The more ULRs we have the more funding we can hopefully access going forward.

ISOLATION AND PRE-BOOKED LEAVE
You will be aware that the POA down south have communicated that they have successfully negotiated with their employer for the reinstatement of pre booked Annual leave for those who were forced to isolate at the beginning of the pandemic. For your information we too have written to our employer, looking for a similar deal to be reached for our membership. We will keep you updated on progress.


On a final note, your efforts have not gone unnoticed by the POAS and they are what drives us as we seek to represent you all daily, in discussions with the employer. We hope you and your families have a happy and safe Christmas, and that we see life returning to a more recognisable normal in the New Year ahead.

Regards

SCOTTISH NATONAL COMMITTEE

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.