Chairman's Blog

Why I will no longer represent non-subscribers

Unlike some of my PFEW colleagues, I always used to be fairly relaxed about advising, even representing the small minority of officers who had chosen, for whatever reason, not to subscribe to PFEW's voluntary fund. The launch of Emerge People Ltd earlier this month (with its insurance package including legal insurance, life assurance, etc.) has forced me, with a heavy heart, to harden my approach to non-subscribers.

Emerge People Ltd has clearly launched its products in direct competition to the services provided by PFEW both at a national and local branch board level. They launched with a clearly articulated intention to give officers a choice; officers now have a choice over who provides their legal protection, etc.

We, as representatives of PFEW should be under no illusion; Emerge People Ltd is a commercial rival whose future existence is reliant upon them tempting officers away from PFEW. That isn't a criticism; it is a simple commercial fact. Officers will make a choice but I contend it is highly unlikely that officers will subscribe to both.

We are all familiar with such choices in our everyday lives. We switch companies for energy, broadband, mobile phones, car insurance etc. Before we switch we do comparisons that go way beyond the price to ensure we're comparing like for like. We also understand that once we've switched to a new company then we have no call on the services of the previous company we used no matter how long we were with them. Choosing between PFEW and Emerge People Ltd is no different.

Emerge People Ltd has launched its scheme without cover for those matters that do not attract legal representation - misconduct interviews, misconduct meetings, unsatisfactory performance or attendance meetings, etc. Either Emerge People Ltd has launched its scheme without any real understanding that local representation goes way beyond the provision of an insurance policy, or they have been naive in believing PFEW, its commercial rival, will continue to provide a service to people who have chosen to go elsewhere.

PFEW spends around £650K per annum training its representatives to enable them to represent officers. Each of these representatives is covered by professional indemnity insurance. Both the training and the insurance are paid for out of members' voluntary subscriptions. It cannot be right that non-subscribers benefit from the professional, indemnified representation provided by subscribing members.

If Emerge People Ltd is truly about offering a real choice then it cannot expect PFEW to subsidise that choice; it cannot expect those who pay their subscriptions to PFEW to subsidise that choice; and frankly neither can those who choose to move away from PFEW to Emerge People Ltd.

The service that PFEW provides through its network of professionally trained and indemnified representatives is its commercial advantage over Emerge People Ltd. To discard that advantage by representing non-subscribing members would be commercial suicide.

Finally, I have asked Emerge People Ltd if I can access their services without paying their £5 monthly subscription. I am still waiting for a reply, but I suspect I know the answer.

Ian Pointon
Kent Police Federation