I joined NAPO as soon as I got my copy of Jarvis, the PO's handbook, complete with a personal letter of welcome from the Chief tucked inside. (Oh, and a name plate for the door to my own office). It never occurred to me not to join the professional association that happened to be a union as well. I've always enjoyed the Journal and in later years it was very reassuring to have union representation when facing a disciplinary and more recently have their support through competency procedures. In relation to the former, I eventually received some 'advice' in relation to the consumption of alcohol and in the case of the latter, after a short period of 'coaching', it was no longer felt that I was completing OASys in a 'cursory' manner.
As a union I have to admit it does feel a bit odd at times. I'm not sure what a miner would make of pit management being present during union meetings. I was astonished once to be sat in a meeting with my ACO present when the main issue being discussed was oppressive management. Absolutely surreal, but then what kind of ACO feels it appropriate to be present at a union meeting anyway? I guess an inescapable consequence of the dual purposes of a professional body and trade union.
Then there's the worryingly obvious fact that holding senior positions in the Branch doesn't seem to hinder ones career prospects in terms of management progression. The aforementioned ACO is a fine example, but I think a miner might find it a bit of a joke and I'm aware that quite a few managers have joined the Unite union instead. There is also bound to be some tension with NAPO representing PO and increasingly PSO members adequately and the inevitable difficulty in reconciling role boundaries. This may well be one reason that Unison is increasingly picking up PSO and CS Supervisor staff.
The union can sometimes appear out of touch, but that has to be down to the membership and I chastise myself for not being more active. I really do feel that trying to carry on representing our Family Court colleagues in CAFCASS is impossibly difficult and they must feel they get overlooked to some extent. But that's history for you. New recruits may not appreciate that when we joined a PO was truely a versatile all-rounder, switching effortlessly from giving evidence in the County Court about access arrangements for the children of divorcing parents, to preparing a criminal PSR and then possibly negotiating with a school about a truanting 13yr old. Oh and helping resolve the odd neighbour dispute. I would say happy days, others I know would cast doubt on our expertise over such a wide field.
Despite everything, NAPO is important as a major voice for probation and from attending Parliamentary Lobbies and seeing my MP fairly regularly, I know it is held in high esteem in many quarters. As I write this, delegates attending the AGM in Scarborough have voted unanimously for a ballot on industrial action if, as expected, the Comprehensive Spending Review leads to further job losses throughout the Probation Service. We are going to need all the friends we can muster in high places over the coming months.