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The Government have announced a 2.5% consolidated pay award for all band 2-5 staff both closed grades and fair and sustainable. This will be backdated to April 1st and paid in Septembers salary. It is disappointing that the Pay Review Body recommendations were not approved in their entirety for the second consecutive year. Adhering to all recommendations would have gone some way to achieving pay parity. Although I realise that band 3 staff in F&S will be disappointed, we will continue to pressure the Government to reflect on their deferred decision and enact the pay award in full when Parliament returns after recess.
We are currently seeking legal advice in relation to the refusal of Government to fully implement pay recommendations as we feel there are no justifiable compelling reasons not to implement the recommendations in full.
We will continue to work with the employer to bring about pay reform so pay parity is achieved and we are all treated fairly. We hope to be in a position in the future that sees us agreeing future pay increases with HMPPS prior to submission. We continue to seek collective bargaining rights over pay.
Our Private Sector members have already had a pay award agreed, whilst our colleagues in the Secure Hospitals settings agreed a 3 year pay deal that is due for renewal in 2021. In country escort services and private sector immigration removal centres have also agreed pay awards.
Following the Court of Appeal Judgment in December 2018, the Government has been working to fix the discrimination identified in the policy of transitional protection that was part of the 2015 reforms to public service pension schemes.
The Government are consulting public sector unions on their proposals to rectify their mistake. The consultation will run for 12 weeks, closing on 11th October.
The Government’s proposals to remove the discrimination will apply to all pension scheme members who were in service on or before 31st March 2012 and on or after 1st April 2015, including those with a qualifying break in service of less than 5 years.
Government proposals include:
Ensure equal treatment by offering the relevant members a choice of which scheme benefits they want to have in respect of their service between 2015 and 2022.
Those who were originally protected will also be offered the chance to be treated as if they had been in the reformed schemes in respect of their service between 2015 and 2022.
Choice to be made by staff either immediately after April 2022 or can defer decision until benefits become payable upon receipt of pension.
All staff to be compulsory transferred into Alpha Scheme in April 2022.
There is still much work for the POA to do during the consultation period as we believe our unique circumstances warrant a retirement age of 60 without pension abatement, in line with other uniformed services.
We continue to work with our legal team to address our concerns. A more in-depth Circular will be forwarded in due course.
As many Prisons continue to ease restrictions it is important that local committees are afforded adequate facility time to engage with their SMTs and agree both their Exceptional Delivery Models and Readiness Assessments. If any committees are disputing any aspects of their recovery regimes, and cannot resolve the issues locally, they should immediately contact their area NEC Representative so it may be escalated to COVID Gold.
Staff should be aware that there is no scope for association periods during the easing of restrictions. Additional unlock time should be utilised for showers, exercise, phone calls and cleaning of cells. We are aware that some Prisons are attempting to facilitate pool, table tennis and bingo sessions. We are still at risk of COVID and allowing the sharing of equipment or an unmanageable number of prisoners on landings places us all at risk.
If anybody has any concerns about their safety or risks associated with regime enhancements, they should inform their local POA committee who will address their issues. The NEC stand ready to assist should staff or prisoner safety be placed at risk due to a desire to return to pre COVID regimes.
PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT
The advice from Public Health England on the use of PPE in our Prisons has not changed. Every Prison should have Safe Operating Procedures in place that specifically state when PPE is appropriate.
The wearing of PPE for patrolling and searching staff in the visits area are compulsory. All visitors are required to wear prison issue face coverings. Wherever possible, social distancing of 2 metres should continue to be observed.
OMiC IN OPEN AND FEMALE ESTATE
Ongoing discussions to agree an OMiC model in the open and female estate were exhausted prior to the onset of the pandemic. Agreement could not be reached, and it is the intention of the employer to impose OMiC models of their choice into the open and female estate. We continue to press for protections for Band 4 staff in these estates. The NEC became aware of an intention to progress OMiC plans this week. We have asked for immediate discussions with HMPPS so we may ensure Band 4 staff receive adequate protections prior to any imposition of OMiC models by the employer.
STAFF SECURITY ATTENDING THE WORKPLACE
The Executive have been made aware of an individual in the Yorkshire and Manchester area who is filming staff outside of Prisons as they attend and depart work. We have reported this to HMPPS Security group who are attempting to remove the videos from YouTube. If any member of staff is approached, they should refuse to comment and report the incident to the Governor. Staff should remain vigilant when leaving work and report any individual who attempts to film them or harass them, to the Police.
The NEC continue to work tirelessly on your behalf and appreciate the support you have given us. We remain available to address any concerns and will continue to update you as information and developments transpire. The COVID situation is changing rapidly but is still a threat. Please continue to remain vigilant and support each other.
As we slowly begin to lift restrictions, I am keen to address as many branches as I can so feel free to invite me into your prisons.
You are all doing a commendable job.
All the best.
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.