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A meeting of the Scottish National Committee was held on 30th September 2020 at 10.00 pm
Those present by were: -
Mr P Fairlie, Asst. Gen. Secretary Mr J McCabe, Acting Chair
Mr W Reid, Scottish Treasurer Mr J Devine, SNC Member
Mrs K Ewen, SNC Member Mr J Cairney, SNC Member
Mrs K Fairlie, Secretariat Mr W Carle, SNC Member
The Minutes of ECM 08/20 were accepted as an accurate record proposed by Mr Reid and seconded by Mr Carle. An amendment was made to item 2.2 to remove the members name from the minutes.
2.1 PAY SITUATION
There had been no SPS pay talks. However, the STAC group had had a (virtual) meeting to further discuss Scottish Civil Service pay cohesion. The Government wished that any deal to be cost neutral, the trade unions, obviously did not agree with this stance, after all, it is the Government that will benefit long terms from pay cohesion, meaning that in future, there will not have to enter into dozens of pay talks with dozens of agencies.
Pay cohesion is important to the POA as it is key to preparing the ground for the introduction of the separate pay structure for operational officers which was part of the three year pay deal currently in place.
2.2 POAS GROUP LIFE SCHEME
There had been no further claims. It was noted that since the lock down had begun in March there had been a good uptake in the scheme. (circa. 80). The broker has offered 6 months free cover to the new recruits and this had resulted in 50 of them taking up the offer. Mr Cairney and Mr Reid had done a good job of recruiting the new starts at the college and the membership numbers had grown throughout the lock down period.
The AGS provided the following update on disputes. He asked that the SNC decide who they wanted to take forward the national disputes and to look at their diaries and give him their availability both for the national disputes and the local ones. (It was usual that the relevant SNC member would take part in the local dispute for their own branches)
Greenock – early courts- Dates awaited
Low Moss – E Band Resource and the financing of resource. – dates awaited.
Edinburgh -Cash Drop. A dispute has been lodged regarding the process of PPC – Dates awaited.
Greenock – Ex Gratia funding for the early courts – Dates awaited.
Shotts – Attendance Patterns – Dates awaited.
Dog Unit – Dates awaited.
Mr Carle had attended the last meeting. The group had reported the ongoing recruit numbers, which were on track. The group will issue paperwork on the ‘Coaching and Mentoring’ scheme for new officers which Mr Carle will share with the SNC when it is available.
All up to date.
Mr Cairney reported that the funding for this year is finished as from today. There had been a 7-day extension which all local union learning reps had been informed of, although only William Mulholland had responded to. There would be meetings arranged with Tommy Breslin STUC to discuss future funding bids for 2021/22. Mr Fairlie will attend the meetings if required.
2.7 THE STATE HOSPITAL CARSTAIRS
The legal settlement for holiday pay was ongoing. The current sist date had been extended to December and it is hoped that a settlement can be reached by then. There is also an ongoing issue with the pension status of Mental Health Officers (MHO). Staff who are in this category appear to have fallen ‘between two stools’ they have neither the right to retire at 55 nor have they been included in the ‘tapering’ arrangements. This will have to be addressed in the pension consultation process. Mr Fairlie also reported that he had had a meeting with Richard Nelson the branch secretary at Carstairs, he is new to the role and they have an almost completely new committee. Mr Fairlie suggested that regular meetings should take place and he would welcome the involvement of members of the SNC in these meetings (as they too are mainly a new committee). Getting to know each other and understand the unique issues of the State Hospital membership. He felt that this would be of a benefit to all concerned. Mr Nelson is arranging for Mr Fairlie to meet the Director at Carstairs to introduce themselves and establish contact before any formal meeting need to take place.
2.8 PRIVATE SECTOR
Mr Reid is assisting a member at Kilmarnock with a capability hearing. Mr Fairlie is attending the POA National Private Sector meeting on 1st October.
2.9 CAMPAIGN STRATEGY
There was nothing further to report. The national update had not yet gone out to the membership, however, it was noted that the consultation process included submissions from individual members too, Mr Fairlie will re issue the POAS circular that had been issued in July to remind the members to make a personal submission if they wished. Mr Fairlie will speak to Mr Gillan and get an update of the POA’s consultation submission.
Nothing further to report
2.11 OPERATIONAL DIRECTORATE
Nothing further to report
2.12 COMMUNICATIONS (Inc, NEWSLETTER & MEMBERSHIP)
The AGS reported that a circular had been issued to the membership regarding visits. He had also given a POAS statement for the Hidden Heroes event which was held at HMP Edinburgh. There were further communications which he will report under section 3 Correspondence.
2.13 FLEXIBLE WORKING
Nothing further to report.
2.14 C & R STEERING GROUP
Mr Reid reported that the meeting had taken place on 11th September he and Mr Fairlie had attended, and it had, overall, been positive and productive. The C&R handbook had been updated and the POA’s points and requested changes had been included, it was now clearer and more precise. Mr Fairlie reported that the handbook had been approved by all parties, including the outside agencies, which was a positive thing for the POA going forward, as once it was out in the public domain, where it inevitably will be scrutinised and potentially criticised, it will be important for the SPS and the POA to point to external involvement and support.
2.15 OFFICE AT CALDER ROAD
The office was now deep cleaned, and hand sanitizing stations were now installed. However, the General Secretary has made it clear that all POA offices will remain closed for at the very least the rest of the year. The staff were going into the office to collect mail and only going in when they absolutely need to (copying, scanning etc). However, most mail was redirected to Kathryn’s home address and the admin function would remain home based and the office closed.
2.16 DRAFT GMA RE: STAFF TRAINING
The GMA was issued, unfortunately it included the reintroduction of C&R training. The POA objected to this training being reintroduced and the notice was recalled and changed after dialogue with Kate Hudson and Ian Whitehead.
2.17 ABSENCE MANAGEMNT POLICY
A presentation of the new policy had taken place on 29th September at the SPS College.
2.18 SOCIAL DISTANCING
The Notice to Staff has now been issued.
2.19 HEALTH & SAFETY – TERMS OF REFERENCE
The matter has been raised with the TUS Secretary and it will be discussed at the next national Health and Safety meeting.
2.20 SCOTTISH NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIR ELECTION
The AGS has written to the GS explaining the rationale in postponing the Scottish Chair election and he understands and is in agreement with the decision.
3.1 ESTABLISHMENT RESPONSE WORKSHOPS
Local branch officials feel that they should be involved in the local response workshops, and the matter was raised by Mr Cairney with Ms Gillian Walker (the organiser of the workshops). Ms Walker has explained that the response workshops formed part of SMT’s contingency planning process which have always taken place in the establishments, and local branches would not ordinarily be included before. In response, Mr Fairlie has written stating that the SNC understand the point made around the normal attendance and involvement of such workshops, but has asked that they establish/facilitate/ a process where the local management teams on completion of the workshops at their level, then seek to inform and involve the local branch officials in what those decisions and protocols will mean in their respective establishments. A response is awaited.
3.2 STUC ONE DAY CONGRESS
The AGS reported that the STUC had cancelled the planned one-day congress in Perth, due to the current COVID infection rates. However, they have organised a virtual on- line congress to take place on 17th November. There will be no motions debated and the main purpose will be to adopt the General Council’s report and financial report and to have some speakers. The SNC decided they would purchase two tickets for the event for Mr McCabe and Mr Fairlie.
3.3 FLM PAY ANOMALY COMPLAINT
A member at Polmont has raised a complaint with his local branch regarding the letter he has received from the SPS regarding the FLM pay anomaly. He does not believe that the monies paid fully or properly compensate for his financial loss. He has asked how the ‘fix’ was arrived at. The AGS has forwarded his communication to Cathriona Affleck for further background on the discussions around the agreed outcome, as he had not been involved in those discussions. The AGS pointed out that it was however an agreed outcome through the ACAS arbitration process. A response is awaited.
3.4 DEATH BENEFIT – LOW MOSS
The AGS reported that sadly, there had been a sudden death of a member of staff at Low Moss. The local branch had enquired as to whether the POA death in service benefit could be paid, as the member of staff had recently applied to re-join the POA. Unfortunately, the new direct debit had not been accepted by his bank and no subscription payment had been made and he had not paid a subscription fee for almost 2 years, and was therefore not a fully paid up member of the association.. The local branch has been informed of this.
3.5 LOCAL BRANCH ELECTION COMPLAINT
A member at HMP Grampian has written to the AGS with complaints regarding the recent local election. In his complaint he claimed that the local branch had not organised/ran the election properly and he felt he had been disadvantaged because of this. The AGS has responded to his complaint and answered all his points and queries, and the local branch had run their election as per the Rules. The response also informed the member that he had the right to appeal to the GS, who has been copied in to the correspondence for his information.
3.6 MEMBER – HMP GRAMPIAN
An FLM recently cancelled his direct debit and the standard letter was sent. He has responded by email and referred to his general dissatisfaction with the local branch. The AGS relayed the contents of the email and asked if the SNC wished to respond. There were no examples given by the member and no specific incidents or issues raised. The SNC decided that a response was not necessary. They were disappointed that a member from Grampian should express such disappointment as the establishment had been given a lot of support in recent years by all parties, to deal with its specific issues.
4.1 TUS MEETING
Mr McCabe pointed out that the next TUS meeting would now be on 29th October, not 22nd, he asked that the committee try to keep their diaries free and attend. He had noticed that PCS representatives were not taking up their share of the TUS workload and that should be raised at the meeting. The AGS informed the committee that PCS are likely to argue for more facility time and they would ask the POA to support them in their attempt to persuade the SPS to grant their request.
Mr McCabe asked that the committee discuss the Managements decision to try and ensure the PPMS for the year was completed. The SNC felt that it was unreasonable of the SPS to try and complete PPMS for the staff this year, given that the timescale had already slipped because of COVID and FLM’s would potentially end up with an unrealistic workload. The committee also felt that the staff had shown incredible dedication in working throughout the pandemic and if the SPS wanted to award PPMS markings to staff for their career folders, than everyone should be given an ‘exceptional marking’. They were disappointed the SPS wanted to go ahead. The AGS informed the committee that the SPS were willing to find some different format or simplified/alternative/abbreviated methods to complete PPMS for all the staff, they have also indicated that the hard work and commitment that staff had shown was the reason they wanted it properly reflected on their records. PPMS was an agreed policy and to raise any potential FTA would be unlikely to give the SNC the outcome they desired. Partnership working did not mean that everyone agreed with each other all the time, and that applies to either side. Although the policy had been set aside by management because of the pandemic, the TUS have been invited to submit their views, but would not get to determine the format or the timescale for its reintroduction. The committee discussed the matter in some detail and decided that the management should be informed via the TUS of their strong opposition to the reintroduction of the PPMS either in its usual format or an alternative format.
4.3 REINTRODUCTION OF VISITS FOOD/DRINK/FACEMASKS
Mr Carle asked that the committee discuss the recent on-line discussions between the branches about the reintroduction of visits and the wearing of facemasks during these visits. It was clear that different establishments have adopted different practices, some allowing food and drink and some not, some allowing limited access to food and drink. The SNC discussed that matter and agreed that the matter was a local one and each establishment should (after proper RA) agree how their visits are managed. The GIC at each establishment was in charge/control of its H&S and every visit area was unique. The SNC will speak to their own branches about this decision and assist, if needed.
4.4 JOE SIMPSON
The SNC asked that the AGS send a message of support to Mr Simpson, who is recovering at home after treatment and surgery.
4.5 ACCUMULATION OF LEAVE
Mr McCabe noted that because of the pandemic, many staff will have more leave left over at the end of the year than was usual and the possibility of staff being allowed to sell back their leave to the employer. He pointed out the difference in numbers between operational and non-operational who had already been afforded the opportunity to do so. The AGS reminded the SNC that was against POA policy (and most Trade Unions’ policy), to sell leave back to the employer, as leave was important to the health and wellbeing of the staff. They should be encouraged to take it wherever possible. It was noted that the SPS are allowing staff to carry over the leave for 2 years not one.
4.6 COLLECTION OF POA DIARIES
The AGS noted that the POA diaries had been delivered to the office and would be sorted out into branches, he asked that the SNC make arrangements to collect their respective branches from the office at Calder Road (preferably on the same day if possible, given the office was currently still closed).
4.7 SPS COLLEGE TECH
Mr Carle noted that he would speak to the IT staff at the SPS college to enquire if there was a better/more reliable way the various virtual meeting to take place using the technology in the classrooms. The AGS asked that the SNC try to use Microsoft Teams for their next meeting.
The Acting Chair thanked everyone present for their contribution, and there being no further business, closed the meeting.
ASST. GENERAL SECRETARY
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.