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A meeting of the Scottish National Committee was held on 26th August 2020 at 12.00 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
Mrs K Fairlie, Secretariat
Apologies from Mr Cairney and Mr Carle who are taking annual leave
The Minutes of ECM 07/20 were accepted as an accurate record proposed by Mr Reid and seconded by Mrs Ewen.
2.1 PAY SITUATION
Nothing further to report
2.2 POAS GROUP LIFE SCHEME
The claim on behalf of a member at Perth, has been processed and paid on 20/8/20
The AGS provided the following update on disputes
Greenock – early courts- Awaiting dates.
Low Moss – E Band Resource and the financing of resource. – Ongoing.
Edinburgh -Cash Drop. A dispute has been lodged regarding the process of PPC –Ongoing.
Greenock – Ex Gratia funding for the early courts – Ongoing.
Shotts – Attendance Patterns – Shotts branch have raised a dispute regarding the return to pre COVID19 attendance patterns. Mr Devine and Mr Fairlie will deal with this dispute. Mr Fairlie informed the SNC that he believed that the dispute could become a national dispute after the first local meeting.
Dog Unit – A new FTA has been lodged on 17th August regarding the back payment of the agreed allowances. Management believe that should be from May this year the POA believe that the allowances should be part of the current three year pay deal.
Mr Reid gave the committee a brief update from the last WFP meeting. Recruitment was going well they had a target of 350 new recruits and had managed to get 280. As this transpired it was enough, as the pandemic had slowed the movement of staff out of the service. The matter of F to I Band direct external recruitment was to be discussed at the next meeting on 7th September.
All up to date.
No further information has been received from the branches, despite a reminder going out, assuming they had not given information direct to J Cairney). It was surmised that perhaps all the ULR had been identified.
2.7 THE STATE HOSPITAL CARSTAIRS
Mr Fairlie had asked for an update from the solicitor dealing with the holiday claim. They have reported that they had not yet received any formal response from the employer, however he had been informed the cist process had been extended to September to allow further negotiations.
2.8 PRIVATE SECTOR
Nothing further to report.
2.9 CAMPAIGN STRATEGY
The NEC still did not have a circular prepared giving the POA position on the McLeod judgement on pensions, the delay was waiting on the lawyers agreeing a form of words. The first meeting of the consultation group had taken place on 3rd August. Mr Fairlie reported that nothing meaningful had come from that meeting as it was more a scoping meeting, although it was clearly evident that the UK Government and the Trade Unions were wide apart in their view of what a remedy looked like in the situation.
Nothing further to report
2.11 OPERATIONAL DIRECTORATE
Nothing further to report
2.12 DOG UNIT REVIEW
As reported in item 2.3 a FTA has been lodged.
2.13 COMMUNICATIONS (Inc, NEWSLETTER & MEMBERSHIP)
Circulars have been issued on the wearing of masks, and the arbitration outcome for the FLM’s. The POAS has given two press statements, one regarding the violent attack on the prison officer outside Glenochil. Officer McMillan had to be taken to hospital with a knife wound to his thigh, thankfully he is now at home convalescing. The second was regarding the wearing of masks inside the establishments. Correspondence had been sent to Alex Purdie regarding attendance patterns, which has resulted in a suggested form of words for a joint statement being sent to Adam Jobson.
2.14 INDEPENDENT REVIEW INTO DELIVERY OF FORENSIC MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES
The group have been informed that the POAS will continue their involvement with the Justice Sector group, and Mrs Ewen will be our representative. Mrs Ewen reported that the next meeting was taking place later that day (26th August).
2.15 MEETING WITH SPS RE ATTENDANCE MANAGEMENT
Mr McCabe reported that he, Mr Reid, and Mr Fairlie had attended a meeting with Management, Mr Cairney and Mr Devine had tried to link into the meeting via phone but had not been able to keep a connection. Mr McCabe thought the meeting had been quite positive in general. The management had stated that there was no hidden agenda or grand plan to introduce a core day on a permanent basis. They agreed that the current working pattern was unsustainable and seemed happy to accept that however, written communications so far, had not been clear and they seemed uncomfortable to clearly state that the establishments would return to the pre COVID attendance patterns. The POA are clear that when it is safe to introduce a full regime, the attendance patterns should be as pre COVID, the management were not adverse to this although Mr Whitehead stated that he was not the decision maker and the decision would be made at Director level. However, they did not believe that the full regime could be delivered in a core day and it would have to change, but only when it was safe to do so. Mr Reid pointed out that one establishment had reintroduced an early/back shift system for first line managers, the management team were unaware of this fact. It was also noted that the statement issued by Caroline Johnstone had not helped matters and the staff were showing concern. Management and the POA agreed that a joint communication should be issued to allay the concerns and give assurance that a permanent core day was not the intention of the SPS, when the Scottish Government implement Phase 4 of their route map, that might be the best and most appropriate time to revisit the attendance patterns. Mr Fairlie will compose a form an initial draft of words that is acceptable to the POA for the communication.
The committee discussed the issues raised in the meeting in detail. It was acknowledged that, as with society in general, things had been learnt in the workplace and not every establishment may want to return to exactly the same attendance patterns as before. However, Mr Fairlie pointed out that the local establishments will have the protection of negotiating via the proper and agreed channels, and the starting point should be the status quo before COVID19, and attendance patterns should always be code applicant. The branches should be aware of all the implications when changing any attendance patterns.
2.16 FLEXIBLE WORKING
Nothing further to report.
2.17 C & R STEERING GROUP
Mr Reid and Mr Fairlie will attend a pre meeting with the SPS on 27th Aug before the main group meets on 11 September.
2.18 ANNUAL LEAVE DURING COVID 19 PENDEMIC
The Scottish Government has not changed its stance on this issue. Individuals who were/are shielding are deemed to have taken their leave if it was rostered during the lockdown period. The SPS are following the Scottish Governments guidance. The Civil Service trade unions continue to lobby the government on the matter but there has been no movement. Some individuals within the SPS have taken out grievances.
2.20 OFFICE AT CALDER ROAD
Ongoing, the office at Calder Road will be deep cleaned week beginning 14th September.
3.1 DRAFT GMA RE: STAFF TRAINING
A draft GMA has been shared with the SNC regarding the resumption of staff training. The AGS asked the SNC if they were content with the changes. The SNC felt that the SPS had taken on board the views expressed and they were content. The AGS will inform Management. It was noted that the local branches would be involved with the local arrangements.
3.2 CORNTON VALE STAFF ATTENDANCE DURING COVID19
Mr Welsh has been in correspondence with both Ian Whitehead and the GIC regarding flexibility for staff whilst working the ‘core day’ shift pattern. He has copied in the SNC. Andy Taylor has also been in contact asking for the SNC’s position on the matter. Mr Welsh had claimed that the SPS were deviating from Section 5 of the Scottish Government’s instructions on managing staff during the pandemic. The SNC considered the correspondence and agreed that the SPS were not deviating from the Scottish Governments instructions. Caroline Johnstone had recently issued an update to all staff stating that staff would suffer no detriment due to the new attendance patterns. After considering all the points raised the SNC agreed that it was a local issue and the local branch and local management team should resolve the difficulties through partnership working. The correspondence appeared to show that there was a willingness to be fair and flexible, and the SNC were confident that the local branch/management would be able to reach a suitable arrangement with each member of staff being given individual consideration for the personal circumstances.
3.3 CORNTON VALE – ISSUING OF PARACETAMOL AND ANTACID
Mr Welsh has written to the SNC regarding the SPS policy document on the issuing of paracetamol and antacid. He pointed out what he believed to be typographical error and a mistake on the date of the document. He appeared to believe that the document had been reviewed and approved by the POA. However, he had again today emailed the SNC to say that he was mistaken. The SNC were unsure as to why he had brought a policy document that was nearly five years old to their attention. They believed the policy had been issued in 2016 and the POA were not aware of any reviews being completed/agreed since that date. Mrs Fairlie will check the list of SPS policies.
4.1 ABSENCE MANAGEMNT POLICY
Mr Reid raised the fact that the new Absence Management Policy was now about to be introduced. Its’ introduction had been postponed due to COVID19 pandemic. The HR managers were being offered training. It was unclear if others were to be included in this initial training. Mr Reid believed FLM and local PLR’s should also receive the training at the same time. Mr Fairlie will speak to Mr Jobson and ascertain what arrangements are being made to ensure training was available for all parties concerned.
4.2 SOCIAL DISTANCING
Mr Fairlie reported that management were keen to issue a reminder to all staff regarding ‘social distancing’. Mr Scott of PCS had requested a meeting with the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, and he has indicated that he has concerns about social distancing within the SPS. The meeting had been scheduled but subsequently cancelled twice. Mr Fairlie indicated his concern that the PCS were trying to make comment/influence in areas which were the responsibility of the POA not PCS. He reminded Mr Jobson that residential areas were the concern of the POA and any reminders/guidance should be done with consultation and agreement of the POA. Mr Jobson and he have agreed that a reminder is needed for the staff, but it should be an encouraging, supportive and positive message. The staff had done a wonderful job of managing the pandemic, the figures proved that point. Mr Jobson had agreed that there would be no ‘hard line’ taken and would work with the POAS to ensure the message was acceptable. The POA were disappointed in PCS again seeking dialogue and influence on matters relating to POA business, this time with Scottish Government.
4.3 HEALTH & SAFETY – TERMS OF REFERENCE
Mr Devine asked the committee consider the current objective of the National Health and Safety Committee and its’ current terms of reference which state: “To promote co-operation between the Scottish Prison Service management and it employees by instigating, developing and carrying out measures to ensure the health and safety at work of the employees and others who may be affected by the actions of those employees.” Mr Devine thought that a more appropriate term of reference was needed, and suggested that the POAS ask for it to be undated. He felt that the POAS ask that it be changed to “To promote co-operation and consultation between the Employer and duly appointed Safety Representatives regarding general matters affecting the health, safety and welfare at work of the Employees that those safety representatives represent. Thereby ensuring a standard of reasonable care is evident when exercising our legal undertakings.” Mr Devine believed that the statement was more in keeping with current legislation and asked if the committee were content to support this. They confirmed that they were. The AGS asked that Mr Devine put the matter to the TUS Secretary and suggested that the POAS raise the matter at the next SPS National Health & Safety Committee meeting.
4.4 MEETING WITH THE JUSTICE SECRETARY
Mr Fairlie reported that he had had a telephone meeting with the Justice Secretary. Mr Yousaf had just wanted to have a catch up. He wanted to put on the record his thanks to all the staff for their management of the pandemic.
He asked about the use of masks for prisoners in the jails and Mr Fairlie explained that the use of masks was now required for both prisoners and staff, mainly in circumstances where social distancing was not possible. Mr Fairlie advised the Cab Sec that there was some concern over issues of identity in any incidents etc but recognised the need to weigh all these decisions on the basis of competing risks.
Mr Fairlie pointed out to Mr Yousaf that the staff had accepted the change to their agreed attendance patterns and had done a remarkable job containing/managing the pandemic and had done so without complaint. He pointed out that it would be unfair, unacceptable, and disrespectful for the SPS not to return to the pre COVID attendance patterns when it was safe to do so. He voiced concern that he did not want the staff to feel cheated or abused, which they certainly would if this was not the case. Mr Yousaf acknowledged this and asked that Mr Fairlie kept him informed on the situation.
Mr Fairlie raised concern that, due to the pandemic, talks had not yet started on a new pay structure for operational staff within the service. This was an agreed part of a three year pay deal and although there was 18 months left in that deal, talks should and would have started, had COVID not stalled things. Mr Yousaf acknowledged the part it played in the pay deal and its importance, and again asked to be kept informed.
4.5 SCOTTISH NATIONAL COMMITTEE CHAIR ELECTION
Mr Fairlie noted that the circular for the election of the POA National Chair had been issued. He was aware that the election of the Scottish chair had been postponed because of COVID, given the time scale involved with the election he suggested that he write to the General Secretary, explaining the rationale that the election timeline should be for the Scottish chair to take up post in May. The committee agreed it would make no sense to run an election now, for a post which is due for re-election in May
4.6 DAVIE NICHOLSON – CORNTON VALE BRANCH CHAIR
Mr Fairlie reported that a hamper had been sent to Mr Nicholson, on behalf of the SNC, after his recent surgery. Mr Nicholson had messaged to pass on his thanks and gratitude. Mr McCabe was pleased to inform them that he had spoken with Mr Nicolson, who was now convalescing at home and was feeling much better and was in a positive frame of mind. He passed on the SNC’s best wishes.
4.7 OFFICER GARY McMILLAN - GLENOCHIL
Mr Fairlie reported that an officer, Gary McMillan, had been attacked and stabbed in the car park outside on his way into work at HMP Glenochil on 14th August. He sustained a serious wound to his leg and hospitalised, but thankfully he was now back home and recovering. A man has been detained nearby shortly afterwards, although at this stage there was no confirmation of any charges having been brought.
Mr McCabe noted that the NCRG were making reference to changing to a 1-meter safe distance instead of 2 and were preparing to do risk assessments and SSOW. The SNC agree that the POA should be involved with this work. Mrs Ewen was attending the next NCRG and she would report back to the committee at the next scheduled SNC catch up meeting.
The Acting Chair thanked everyone present for their contribution, and there being no further business, closed the meeting.
CHAIR ……………….………………………………………… (acting)
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.