A Message from Andy Smith
The beginning of 2018 has brought big changes to the WA Prison Officers Union following the resignation and departure of Secretary John Welch. It is with that news I would like to announce I will be stepping in as acting secretary, until elections are held in May this year.
With almost 15 years of experience in the industry, I see myself as a prison officer, through and through. It all began for me as a probationary officer at Hakea Prison back in 2004 where I gained extensive experience as an officer and senior officer in the units. I also spent time working in Hakea’s security, prison management and finally as an acting principal officer.
Working a considerable number of shifts at Bandyup Women’s Prison and the Wooroloo Prison Farm also gave me a comprehensive understanding of the stresses prison officers face, regardless of where they work or what position they hold. Nevertheless, it was my passion for speaking up for what I believe in, that steered me in the direction of WAPOU in 2011. Since then I have played an integral part in four Enterprise Bargaining Agreement negotiations and have successfully represented dozens of members battling industrial relations issues and disputes.
As we look forward to the Union’s exciting new future with the full support and confidence of the Executive, our team of highly trained Industrial Officers; Paul Ledingham, Sophie van der Merwe and Hsien Harper, are dedicated to your cause as we enter this year’s EBA negotiations.
Our focus under the State Government’s current financial restraints is to ensure prison officers don’t become victims of cost-cutting measures and we’ll fight to defend against any erosions of prison officer’s working conditions.
Your Union will also continue to address the issue of appropriate safe staffing levels for individual prisons and where it is not available, adapt regimes that ensure the safety and security of prison officers. As a father and grandfather, I understand the importance of ensuring staff return home safely to their families every night.
Sadly, I’ve witnessed the heartbreaking consequence stress can have on a prison officer after having to lay to rest friends and colleagues who’ve been taken by suicide. That is why I have made it my personal mission to ensure that the Union provides prison officers with the right assistance and tools to enable them to alleviate and manage stress in the workplace, and this will continue throughout 2018.
Part of this initiative is to provide ongoing mental health assistance programs and presentations to all prison officers and culminate with an annual mental health seminar. We will also encourage members and their families to take part in charity events organised by the Union. These include the Black Dog Ride to Wagin, the May Day march in Fremantle and Movember.
I have introduced prison-specific occupational health and safety training and union delegate training to ensure officers and union delegates are provided with the correct tools to protect member’s rights. We will continue to focus on the development of our Registered Training Organisation status, which will provide training in occupational health and safety, mental health and leadership management to our members at a discounted rate.
To conclude, I would like to remind members my door is always open and encourage those with concerns or ideas to get in contact with the Union. I look forward to a safe and positive 2018.
Acting WAPOU Secretary