Your email address has been passed to me as you had requested a contribution for your online blog as I’m standing for the role of General Secretary within Napo. I understand you have already sourced some information and so I apologise if this contribution repeats some of what you have already shared.
I am 40 years old and was born in Greenwich South London. I have two daughters and live with my partner Lisa a Psychologist who works at HMP Swaleside. I currently reside on the Isle of Sheppey where I also work as a Custodial Manager (Band 5) at HMP Elmley. I have worked at Elmley for 15 years. Before working in the Prison Service and after completing my ‘A’ Levels I worked as a Management Accountant for approximately eight years working for various large companies producing monthly management information and reports such as profit and loss and balance sheets. I also line managed a team of 15 staff. I decided to change career following my Father’s premature death from cancer at the age of 57 and wanted to do something more meaningful as I saw it. I am a strong believer in quality public services as being a vital part of the fabric to the wider functioning of society and I took the opportunity to become a Prison Officer to try and fulfil my own desire to do well.
Upon entering the Prison Service I had no hesitation in joining the POA and I saw trade union membership as an integral part of any career within the sector. As time passed by I recognised the importance of trade unionism in the workplace and became a strong advocate of promoting trade unionism activities and beliefs. Approximately 10 years ago I became a local trade union representative at Elmley having been very vocal at meetings for some time; this soon led to me taking over as Branch Secretary.
As the Government imposed more and more unrealistic cuts on our sector I started to feel increasingly frustrated with the system and I decided I needed to take a stand against these injustices. This came with great personal risks to my own employment by speaking out against cuts. My stance and the support it aroused with POA members led to my election onto the NEC. Whilst on the NEC I led several high profile revolts against management and Government including walking several individual branches out on health and safety grounds and taken control of HMP Pentonville for four days away from any management control. As a result I faced many threats, attempts to intimidate and coerce me but I did not falter in my commitment to achieve safe working conditions for my members. My reputation for being prepared to take management on at all costs led to my election as The National Chair of the POA in 2015.
Throughout 2016 I led the union through a turbulent time organising members to take various industrial action in the pursuit of longstanding issues around safety, pay, pension and terms and conditions. Several high profile meetings were arranged between myself and the then Secretary of State Liz Truss MP where I pushed for changes and additional funding for the Prison Service. The pressure placed on Government and the employer forced concessions and at the end of 2016, whilst the Government were still imposing cuts on public services more widely, £104 million was secured from the treasury for 2,500 extra Prison Officers and a pay and pension deal worth £13 million annually was offered to POA members which took the Government outside of their own imposed 1% pay cap. This additional funding from the Treasury to the MOJ was not money that was shifted away from other public sector unions pay claims.
During my time with the POA I led the union through some successful media campaigns highlighting the many issues within the mainstream media. I appeared on the national news almost daily including headlining the prestigious BBC 10 o’clock news on three occasions and made multiple appearances on a variety of topical shows, documentaries and news channels. In addition to raising the profile of the POA to undoubtedly its highest profile in its 75 year history I engaged members at every level by regularly attending branch meetings, arranging successfully and well attended public demonstrations and setting up the highly successful KTD (Know The Danger) Facebook page with over 30,000 regular followers.
I have always had a keen interest in politics and I encourage everyone to take part in the debates and to understand the political landscape. I first ventured into standing for political positions in 2013 when I stood in the Kent County Council elections for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC). Following this I joined the Labour party after the 2015 defeat. I felt compelled to do so, that change was afoot and in hope that a Socialist Labour party would emerge.
In 2017 I stood as the Labour Party Parliamentary Candidate in Sittingbourne and Sheppey. Although unsuccessful in my campaign to become an MP in what was considered a safe Conservative seat, Labour moved from third in the area to second with a 62% increase in votes compared to 2015 and an 11% swing towards Labour, the swing to Labour was higher than the national average. Since that campaign the Labour party has continued to grow locally picking up a vital by-election seat. Although I have stood as a Labour candidate I fully respect and understand the varying views of members within a trade union organisation. My understanding of this means that I find it easy to ensure that my work as a trade union representative is not affected by my own political views and I understand the importance of cross party lobbying in order to achieve union objectives.
Why Napo General Secretary?
I am standing for the role of General Secretary of Napo as it is a role that holds great interest for me and I am excited by the prospect of tackling some of the major issues Napo members have faced over recent years such as Privatisation, pay freeze and unreasonable workloads. This extends to the various members that Napo represents such as Probation Officers, court staff, Cafcass and temporary workers and I look forward to potentially getting to meet many members and listening to their concerns, issues and problems. The activists within Napo have continued to work hard to address issues for their members and I would welcome the opportunity to complement that work with a more ambitious and proactive agenda for change. This would include attacking those stubborn issues with a clear strategy to achieve success. The financial position of Napo is an area of serious concern and I believe that urgent steps need to be taken if we are to ensure Napo is sustainable for the future, we cannot afford to bury our heads in the sand over this issue and I believe small unions are the best at representing their members interests which is why I want to see Napo thrive independently not disappear.
I have maintained close relationships with some of your executive members, some of which stretch back 10 years and I have listened and talked to members about many of the issues that Napo have faced for a number of years. Whilst I have a good knowledge of the criminal justice sector and the difficulties that Napo members face I understand that I will need some time to understand those issues in depth to truly be effective in taking those issues on and helping to shape future campaigns and strategies. I look forward, if successful, to working closely and proactively with Napo’s NEC to achieve the goals that have already been set and bringing fresh thinking to how these aims and objectives can be successfully achieved. I hope that members can see that my past achievements could be used to benefit Napo’s membership and I hope that they will take time to consider carefully their choice in this election with only a short window in which to give those members opportunity to understand what Mike Rolfe can offer and what I also stand for.
Thanks again for giving me opportunity to supply a piece for your blog and I look forward to hopefully engaging more in future via such forums. Please feel free to email me if you have any questions, and to pass my email address onto other Napo members / potential members should they wish to know more.