245 Church Street
Telephone: 020 8803 0255
NEC Member Geoff Willetts
I wish to place on record my best wishes to Geoff Willetts who has joined the NEC as the Area Representative for the Midlands. All enquiries from Midlands Prisons should be directed to Geoff at email@example.com or 07494 141743.
The National Executive Committee are due to commence consultation with HMPPS about medium term plans to ease restrictions as the peak in COVID cases begins to reduce. This will be done gradually over a prolonged period of time and will involve advice from Public Health England and analysis of COVID trends in geographical areas as well as a consideration of outbreaks and cases within individual prisons. There will be a strict scrutiny and governance procedure in place. Local POA committees will be afforded additional facility time and will be involved in formulating and agreeing new Risk Assessments and Safe Systems of Work. The NEC will be fully involved in these plans and your safety is non-negotiable.
All members should note there are no changes to the current lock down regimes at all and any deviations should be reported to your Area NEC Representative immediately. No changes to regimes will take place until the NEC have agreed a way forward. This will take several weeks. I reiterate again, there are no changes at all to your current regimes.
POA Accommodation Scheme
I am pleased to announce that Center Parcs have agreed that POA members can remain on their sites until Friday 12th June. I am pleased that we have been able to support so many members during this time and look forward to a healthy relationship with Center Parcs in the future. Other major hotels continue to offer POA members accommodation at reduced costs. More details can be obtained on POA Circulars 68 and 70/2020.
PP Bonus scheme
There are many rumours in circulation about the PP Bonus scheme that now need to be clarified.
The hours staff have committed to will be honoured. Governors have the option to reduce PP hours weekly in order to have hours in reserve in case of further outbreaks between now and March 2021. If you have signed up to work either 108 hours or 36 hours you will be expected to complete these hours. Your bonus payment will be paid into your salary on time even if you have not completed your committed hours.
PP bonus scheme hours can be used for bed guards and constant watches.
The annual leave buy back scheme is still available and is not being removed. You have until the end of June 2020 to express your interest to the detail manager. After this date it is unlikely you will be allowed to sell annual leave.
There ae no plans to approve a further PP Bonus scheme but this cannot be ruled out because we may see a second wave of COVID-19.
The vacant Chair position is temporarily being occupied by the Vice Chair Jim McCabe until elections can recommence. Our colleagues in Scotland continue to work commendably in reducing the spread of COVID-19 in their Prisons and I thank them for their efforts.
Northern Ireland Area Committee
I would like to thank our colleagues in Northern Ireland for their efforts in containing the spread of Coronavirus in their Prisons. I am aware of the praise they have deservedly been afforded by their CEO Ronnie Armour.
Sick Leave Excusals
Following concerns raised by the POA, MOJ HR Services discussed our plans to improve the current sick leave excusal application process. The improvements will speed up the process for employees and Prisons, reduce the potential for errors and delays and the amount of paperwork involved. We await a final agreed version once consultation with other interested parties has concluded.
The Pay Review Body has submitted their recommendations to Government. There is due to be an announcement about any pay award in June, although because of COVID this may change.
POA members in the Secure Hospitals continue to perform exemplary duties and report very few cases of COVID-19 amongst their populations. Some sites have implemented virtual visits. Staff are being trained in ‘swab’ testing for COVID and there are ‘test and trace’ in place in some settings. This estate continues to adhere to regime restrictions and is stable.
POA full time officials continue to support our Private Sector Colleagues and have ensured that they are benefitting from sufficient PPE and can access their own bespoke PP Bonus Scheme.
In Country Escorts (ICE)
We continue to support our colleagues who are placed at risk escorting prisoners throughout the country. Our FTO staff have asked employers to provide face masks for all staff and prisoners during escorts as this has proved successful with other escort providers. Certain employers continue to refuse to adopt this practice. We will continue to push this area of good practice.
Reply from Secretary of State Robert Buckland MP QC
I enclose a copy of the reply from the Secretary of State for Justice in relation to a request from the POA to give parity to frontline staff within our Prisons.
Local POA Branch Officials
Please ensure you recognise your local POA officials for the work they continue to perform on your behalf. They are the backbone of this Union and will be relied on to ensure your safe working practices continue during the recovery phase. I would like to thank you all for the work you do. We are looking at enhancing our communication strategy with you to include digital technology.
Retired and Honorary Life Members
Our thoughts are with our retired and honorary life members at this difficult time. We are aware that many of our former colleagues are currently shielding at home and are looking after loved ones with health conditions. We remain available for this section of our POA family in their time of need.
As we slowly enter our recovery phase it is important to remember that due to your efforts our Prisons have stabilised with initial modelling predicting over 2700 prisoner deaths. This figure has been revised and has significantly reduced to estimates of below 100. We must not be complacent and must not allow deviations from restrictions unless an agreement is in place and the evidence suggests it is safe to expand regimes.
Ultimately, staff on the frontline in our secure settings have saved lives and you deserve every accolade for doing so. We must not let the evidence sway us from implementing safer regimes that have reduced violence against us and allowed prisoners with complex needs the opportunity to engage with staff and ease their fears.
Returning to chaos is not an option.
Thank you on behalf of the NEC for your continued bravery, professionalism, and commitment on the frontline. We remain available for you all whenever you may need us.
To you and your families I wish you all the best.
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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.