I thought a contribution for the weekend would be an opportunity to move the debate on a little. There seems a lot of apathy, disillusionment and waning enthusiasm both for the fights ahead, the current election and the Union itself. I do sympathise with your readers’ views but if I’m honest this is exactly why I wanted to stand for the role of Napo GS, I know given the opportunity that I can reinvigorate the membership, I did this with the POA and I’m confident that I can do this again with Napo whilst recognising things will be vastly different.
I know that I would only be the post holder of the role if successful and that the members always come above the personalities in terms of what the union’s direction should be. I have seen and met many people in senior roles within unions that start to believe they are more important than the union or its members after a period of time, then as time passes and when the end comes near they become desperate and frantic to hold onto power stooping to any level in which to retain their role twisted and bitter at the thought of losing a comfortable salary and accustomed life style. This is certainly the reason in my opinion why the POA attempted to place a ban on me re-standing for elected posts for 9 years following last year’s election and for which I successfully challenged. Ultimately I know this was mainly down to my popularity with members, their knowledge that I would try to give it my all in pursuit of their issues and this became a threat to their own positions should I have decided to stand against them.
I am not looking at this role as a lifeline for my finances; in fact I have been offered two jobs that have paid more in the last year and thanks to the 30% increase in overtime rates which were negotiated on my watch with me leading for the POA. Many of my colleagues are earning in excess of the salary that I would start on simply sitting with Prisoners at hospital a couple of times a week; this is not me belittling some of the concerns around pay just a simple fact. Similarly I am also not seeing this role as a forever job, 5 – 10 years is sufficient time for any leader to try and make things happen and if you haven’t seen any success in that time then something is obviously wrong, eventually you run out of ambition, ideas and usefulness. There is a shelf life of any trade union representative and you need to recognise that yourself without trying to grip onto power offering much of the same, sadly many fail to see this.
I’m not trying to deliberately attack anyone with my views in this post but if I’m honest…what is left for Napo? Falling membership, deteriorating conditions both financially and in working conditions for most members, and no light at the end of the tunnel. Whoever leads Napo forward needs to do so with a clear sense of unity, communication, transparency, they must be honest about the issues faced and be prepared to face each adversity head on with vigour and enthusiasm. Spouting rhetoric which is not followed up by actions will not achieve anything but further apathy and disappointment. I believe Napo must act, and act soon or it really will be the final curtain call in a couple more years. I personally don’t want to see this happen, a Union with a proud history, a history that dates back over 100 years will be easy pickings for a larger union looking to increase their own membership, but then where will be the individual voice for probation staff, for court staff for the probation board in Northern Ireland?
One thing I know for certain is that I will not be everyone’s cup of tea, I will challenge the age old perceptions on how business for the union should be done, I will come into conflict with opposing views and I will be dogged and determined in ensuring that my views on strategy and taking the union forward will be heard and acted upon. If you want this for your Union then the choice is simple, if you want more of the same then also your choice is simple.
Many questions have been raised during this debate about what my views are on certain issues and what I will say is that everything will be up for review if you elect me. During my time as National Chair of the POA I not only acted on longstanding issues such as pay and pension by controlling the narrative of all stakeholders through media pressure earning the public support needed to pressurise politicians, I thought outside of the box threatening to take control of all Prisons to ensure staff safety and I was fully prepared to put my neck on the line by coming out of the shadows and not just hiding and running every time the temperature was turned up, this enabled me and my team to achieve positive negotiated outcomes. But the job didn’t end there I also looked internally at the union itself, I made necessary cuts to expenditure that did not affect members’ services, I stopped the employed staff having too much sway on NEC decisions, I told other executive members that if they did not have the stomach to see through the fight then they could go home and I would accept that as their own resignation, I created new routes to communication and I was not afraid to ensure that we spent money even if it was lost money in defending individual members and the collective in tribunals and legal settings, all of this I believe Napo members need to see also.
So you have your choice to make, I may well be too much for some of you and you may be absolutely terrified of me winning this election, but if you do select me then you will have someone who will not take that personally and seek to isolate you and your opinions, you will have someone who will debate you and respect your rights to have different views from myself and someone that I’m convinced you will learn to respect because I stand by my word and I also do so with principles and with the acknowledgement that the responsibility of continued failure will rest at my feet.