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At long last it would appear that the POA will be resuming our annual conference this year, where POA delegates will be brought together at what is our trade union parliament. For the last two years we have not been able to hold our conference for obvious reasons due to the Covid-19 pandemic but the green shoots of recovery mean that we can once again hold a long-overdue conference that is the heart of our democracy, where decisions are made on the policies and structures of the POA, with branch delegates voting on important issues.
The POA have unfinished business after the Cuffe report was endorsed, with its many recommendations to take the POA forward. The information meeting, although not a decisionmaking meeting, gave an overview of the progress the POA has made on those Cuffe recommendations and the NEC has taken extremely seriously those instructions from annual conference 2019. Clearly there will be some areas within that report that were hampered by the pandemic and some are unachievable, and a proper business case on those areas that are unachievable will be produced for annual conference consideration.
Conference also gives us the opportunity to update our rules and constitution where Cuffe made recommendations, or indeed to reject those changes where a business case is accepted by conference. I would like to thank Pat Cuffe for his report (it seems a long time ago) but for example the POA have made many changes on the back of it, with our expansion of IT and an improved website, podcasts and short videos, which are widely shown on social media. Our “join the POA online” system has been a major success and when other elements are rolled out on the website, such as self-service and keeping tabs on your own legal cases online, it will only make for better communication and put the membership more in control.
Inevitably over a period of time the Senior Partners change and during the past two years Steve Cavalier CEO has retired, Doug Christie Senior Partner has also retired and Victoria Phillips Senior Partner is retiring April 2022. All three individuals have been superb, not only in their advice over the years for the POA but indeed for the whole trade union movement. I wish all three of them a long, healthy and prosperous retirement. From a personal point of view they were more than just solicitors to me – they became my friends and they only ever wanted the very best for the POA and the membership. Clare Mellor is the new Chief Executive for Thompsons and I look forward to building the same professional relationship with her. Already she has hit the ground running, setting out her plans for the future, which will only enhance the remarkable outcomes for our members. Recently I have been astonished by outcomes for our members, with millions of pounds worth of compensation when our members have been involved in legal cases, and unlike high street lawyers with Thompsons our members keep 100 per cent of compensation.
ONLY A FOOL WOULD PREDICT THE FUTURE
As restrictions are relaxed throughout the UK, and indeed the world, from Covid-19 it would be a complete fool to predict the future in relation to what lies ahead due to the pandemic. Further, who could have predicted the massive increase in food prices, energy bills, petrol, inflation or household goods? Has all this occurred because of Brexit, the pandemic or a mixture of both? Or is it also fuelled because of tensions between different countries, such as the Russian invasion of Ukraine? Some POA members would ask what the Russian invasion of Ukraine has got to do with representing our members. Well, as I have stated on many occasions, politics and what happens in the world is everything to do with the POA. If conflicts around the world or political decisions impact on our members and families and threaten their livelihoods when they are struggling to make ends meet, then we need to be involved. The TUC have issued a statement about this conflict and it is one I support wholeheartedly.
Issue date 25 Feb 2022 The TUC condemns the illegal invasion of a sovereign nation and calls for Russia to respect Ukrainian territorial integrity. We join the global union movement in calling for peace and urge all governments to reach a negotiated solution through diplomacy, including a return to the framework of the Minsk agreements, to bring about peace, democracy, security, and human and trade union rights for all in Europe, Ukraine and Russia.
The humanitarian consequences for civilians must be urgently addressed and international humanitarian law must be respected. We support the UNHCR’s calls for neighbouring governments to keep borders open to all those that need safety and call on our own government to play its part in supporting humanitarian assistance for forcibly displaced people and to welcome refugees seeking to come to the UK.
Working people always suffer in conflict and the pursuit of peace is a fundamental trade union value, an essential condition to secure safety, social justice and workers’ and human rights.
We send our solidarity to our Ukrainian trade union sisters and brothers and all the people of Ukraine; we know that working people in Europe, Ukraine and Russia want peace and we encourage solidarity between workers across borders.
The TUC supports all efforts which lead to peace and social justice. Update (03 March 2022): Send solidarity donations via the ITUC emergency fundraising appeal www.tuc.org.uk/news/tuc-statementukraine
I hope there is a diplomatic solution soon so that economies all over the world can be supportive to the lives of working people. Our thoughts and prayers must be with those who are losing their lives in this conflict and I certainly do not want to see anyone suffer.
PAY FOR 2022/23
At the time of writing, the POA have submitted its submission for fair pay for our members. Our submission is clear and evidence-based, and only time will tell whether the Pay Review Body listens to our evidence and what they recommend to Government for hard-working POA members.
I started this Gatelodge column about annual conference and it will be great to have that face-to-face meeting again to progress the policies of the POA.
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.