National Chair: Summer of Stability

The days of full wing unlocks, unnecessary mixing of prisoners and the boredom associated with allowing large numbers to idle on landings must cease

As we head towards summer it would be easy to think that we can provide regimes without caution. The pandemic is very much alive, and we cannot rule out a third wave in our secure settings. We must continue to be vigilant. Although outbreak sites are minimal, we simply cannot allow our regimes to replicate pre-Covid chaos. The days of full wing unlocks, unnecessary mixing of prisoners and the boredom associated with allowing large numbers to idle on landings must cease. Now is our opportunity to build safe, purposeful and constructive regimes.


The daily reports I read tell me that violence against staff is on the rise. We must never accept assaults on staff as part of the deal we get on the frontline. If HMPPS are serious about zero tolerance towards violence, then they have to start proving it. I have just viewed photographs of a truly sickening assault on one of our members that will leave lifelong scarring and life changing injuries. Although this attack was unprovoked, the prisoner involved had a history of assaults on staff and prisoners and threatening behaviour.

Why then do Governors allow violent, non-conformist prisoners on transfer to access normal location? It is another example of the weak management of our service, run by some people who are too interested in pandering to people who have no desire to reform. If we accept violent prisoners, then they should be assessed in our segregation units. Only when they display respectful, conformist behaviour should they be given the opportunity of a ‘fresh start’ on normal location.

The timidity from senior managers has to stop. Staff deserve to be protected. Someone’s desire to experiment with psychological theory can have untold consequences for staff on the frontline.

Its time to take back control of our prisons and it's time to install discipline and respect. The POA will always push for the most severe charges and sentencing when our colleagues are attacked in such a cowardly way.


The summer also heralds the peak leave season for staff. Whilst foreign travel is restricted, I sincerely hope that you get some quality time with your families and friends so you can recharge your batteries after 16 long months of pressure. The effect the pandemic has had on frontline staff’s mental health is yet to be seen so I would urge anybody who is feeling burnt out or affected by the stresses and worries that Covid brings to access the support services on offer. The POA are proud to be at the forefront of support for all its members. You only need to ask and we will provide. Full details can be


The days of full wing unlocks, unnecessary mixing of prisoners and the boredom associated with allowing large numbers to idle on landings must cease Summer 2021 | 6 | @POAunion accessed on our website.

We eagerly await the publication of the pay recommendations. It was good to finally have a say with the independent review body. Both our written and oral submissions were professionally delivered and we made it plain that, after such a traumatic time for brave staff who continue to place themselves at risk to protect the public and those in our care, only a significant pay rise for all will be acceptable. The Government have once again decided to treat prison officers and all public servants with disdain. It is not just POA members who deserve a pay rise, everyone who kept the country safe should be recognised. Hand clapping and public statements of appreciation will not improve the standard of living of the recipients. It's commendable that our Full Time Officials have negotiated above-inflation pay rises for our private-sector colleagues. The the public sector have always been compared to private-sector standards and it is now time to match their pay rises. When they can offer a better starting salary for new recruits it's no surprise that many are tempted away from the public sector.

Our colleagues in Secure Psychiatric Hospitals continue to perform above and beyond what is expected of them. I hope the Government finally sort out their pay rise and realise that 1% for NHS workers is as insulting as it appears.

Let us hope our Pay Review Body heap pressure on the Government by recommending a deserved pay increase for all. The membership are watching and will judge their independence by the recommendations they make.

The recruitment crisis in our service continues. HMPPS estimate that over the next 12 months they will lose approximately 260 staff per month. This, coupled with 1000 vacancies and restrictions on course numbers for new recruits will heap significant pressure on the service. We cannot expect or rely on staff to work excessive overtime to cover shortfalls. We must have adequate and safe staffing levels in all our prisons. It's time to restructure the pay scales in order to attract candidates to the job, retain experience and give people an incentive to progress. We have called for F&S to be scrapped and a new pay structure to be negotiated that will see parity across the board whilst ensuring all are incentivised and rewarded. The offer is on the table, but I fear there is simply no will from the employer to consider this. We continue to press for a judicial review into the Government’s refusal to implement pay Recommendation 3 from last year’s award. This £3k increase for Band 3 staff subject to F&S terms and conditions would go a long way to achieving pay parity and improving morale. We await the court's decision on the approval of this legal challenge. At the time of writing, most of our prisons are now at stage 3 of regime progression, with a small number at stage 2. As time progresses it is important that frontline staff have their say on how future regimes should be delivered. We are engaging at a national level on how stage 1 regimes should look and I know many branch officials have held focus groups with those in Gold Command.

HMPPS aspire to change the way staff can work. They have plans to offer more flexible working including increased use of work-life balance and part-time contracts. It's such a shame, then, that so many members find it difficult to get flexible working patterns or part-time / reduced hours approved by their Governors. The impression from the frontline is that these requests are frowned upon and are too much hassle. If our employer really wishes to adopt a more staff-focussed approach, they would be minded to accept that asking for an alternative or reducedhours shift pattern will improve retention and reduce sickness levels. I sometimes feel these great ideas are designed for office-based staff and those on the frontline are just a niggling irritant that they have to consider. I hope I am proven wrong.

We continue to improve communication to our membership and have just launched POA TV on YouTube. Over time we will download all videos and media interviews onto this channel. I would encourage all members to access this faciliy, so they are fully updated on all national issues. We will also be launching podcasts that will further enhance information and communication. Tune in today to POATV at: https://

As we hopefully begin to come out of Covid, I will continue to visit as many prisons as I can. It is important for me to get around and personally thank everyone for their efforts during these troubling times. Each and every POA member has been an absolute credit to their employer, their union and the general public. You should all be extremely proud of your efforts. I could not be prouder to lead such a fantastic body of members. Until next time, stay safe, support each other and ensure you get some much-needed uninterrupted down time.

All the best.

Mark Fairhurst
National Chair

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.