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The National Executive Committee met today at its normal NEC meeting and as part of the agenda Annual Conference 2020 was discussed. As you will recall due to COVID-19, the NEC made the decision to postpone the May 2020 Conference until November 2020 hoping that a return to normal later this year would enable that Conference to take place in Southport.
The Executive recognise that as a responsible trade union safety and life preservation comes first. The Annual Conference is our flagship and our biggest event of the year. We looked at all options even a socially distanced smaller event but in reality, we do not know if that would have satisfied the Government guidance, which is at the moment even with a relaxation in our communities does not permit large social gatherings. Our Conference would fall into that category as it attracts around 350-400 delegates, exhibitors, visitors, staff, NEC and Honorary Life Members. By introducing a smaller Conference did not seem appropriate.
We were also notified in recent days that the Southport Theatre has gone into liquidation and if there is no rescue package in place that could mean the venue is in jeopardy and we would not have the time to arrange another venue. It is hoped that Sefton Council can remedy this issue in the coming months.
Scientific experts also believe there could be a second wave of the pandemic in the autumn and at the moment we know that many trade unions have also cancelled their Conferences this year and that theatres, cinemas also remain closed due to the guidance not permitting larger gatherings.
On balance the NEC have decided to cancel Annual Conference 2020 and concentrate their time on dealing with the ongoing work that will protect the membership during the COVID -19 pandemic. It was also decided to hold a 5- day Conference in 2021 instead of a 3 -day Conference. That planning will now go ahead and the dates will be promulgated as soon as possible with May 2021 being planned.
The Executive are fully aware that the agenda has been published for this year and Standing Orders will be sitting in the coming days to determine a way forward in relation to those motions. Further information will be available when the Standing Orders Committee have reported to the full NEC after their meetings. We recognise that in the Rules and Constitution it states the Union will hold an Annual Conference each year and as a result we have written to the Certification Officer pointing out that certain things are out-with our control due to COVID-19. We will update you with further information as it becomes available but wanted to communicate as quickly as possible our decision to cancel Annual Conference 2020.
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.