Saturday, 27 July 2013

Omnishambles Update 11

Lets start this update with some more bad news for Chris Grayling and his plans for privatising the Probation Service. Regular readers will recall that the risk of industrial action was a code 'black' in the official Risk Register, which we are still not allowed to see by the way. 

Code 'black' is the highest level of identified risk that could jeopardise implementation of the whole Grayling omnishambles. Both Napo and Unison have just undertaken indicative ballots of their respective memberships for industrial action, and the results are unequivocal. In the case of Napo, 92% of those who took part voted in favour of taking action that included striking. In the case of Unison, it was 85% in favour of action that included strikes.

This result is pretty unusual for Napo as traditionally they have not had a particularly militant membership willing to strike. This is probably due to the strong professional ethos that probation staff have and sadly a trait that government's have taken advantage of in the past. 

Browsing on the Napo forum pages, I came across the following and I hope the author Joe Public does not mind me quoting in full their analysis of the situation we now find ourselves in as a profession:-
It was only ever a matter of time before neoliberalism got to probation. All the various hoops probation has jumped through in recent years were all preliminary to getting it out of the public sector. I think the government would like to get rid of it lock, stock and barrel, but are worried about public reaction and levels of public trust and confidence if 'high risk' cases were also privatised. 

It has been ideological all along, starting with Labour with the work to be finished by the Tories. I think many in probation were either in denial or were genuinely ignorant of the ideological grand design. So, we had all the garbage about how good performance would safeguard public probation, how by getting lean and mean with staff, costs would be lowered and jobs secured, how cutting terms and conditions – allowances, mileage, subsistence - would save jobs, how making staff redundant would protect jobs. How credulous we were...

The workforce was led up the garden path. And what a bruising path: a bullying target culture, manipulated statistics, and a demeaning crushing of the professional ethic. How good managers were at waving the big stick and yet like frightened rabbits they dare not now put their heads above the parapet to voice opposition to TR which they claim will put the public at increased risk of harm. So we were bullied by the worst type of bully – the coward. I know you, Duende, like a military metaphor: 'lions led by donkeys'.

I don't think there are any protections out there in TUPE. The results of the indicative ballot will be very interesting as to – given their apathetic track record – how many members bother to express an opinion. Probation needs prolonged industrial action, it needs to show a bit of passion and maybe it may just start to register with public opinion what a daft idea TR is. But it is close to the midnight hour!

What the ballot results demonstrate is that with the stakes being so high, attitudes are changing. I'm fairly sure of my ground in being able to say that it's now a forlorn hope on government's part that probation will just 'roll over' in relation to TR. The proposals essentially destroy the service and profession, making colleagues increasingly militant as the details of what is being proposed fully sink in. Remember even barristers withdrew their labour recently for a short time. Make no mistake Minister - apathy and resignation are rapidly turning to anger and action!  

I notice that following my mention yesterday and with exquisite timing, Sir Stephen Bubb, the supremely self-serving cheer-leader for the bosses of the voluntary and charity sector outfits that are bidding for our work, has put in a spirited plea for membership pay rises all round. A former Labour Councillor, but now felt to be close to the Cameron government, he's been variously described as a 'trojan horse' and providing 'charitable astroturfing for government policies'.

It's quite obvious from his utterly self indulgent blog that he has no interest in how charities are cutting employees wages in order to compete for contracts, but classically feels bosses should get more. This guy really does take some believing and I strongly urge readers to keep up with his musings and dining arrangements via his British Library-endorsed blog. Do his members seriously think he portrays an image that appropriately reflects their sector? If they do, then I think it says all we need to know about them and their aspirations.

Talking of image, lets have another pop at Serco and G4S. Why? Because I enjoy it. Firstly, news continues to reach me about the chaos in London and the Unpaid Work contract Serco won last year. This is typical:-

"we do all the breaches for Serco Unpaid Work, complete nightmare as the left arm doesn't know what the right arm is doing, i.e. offenders being turned away from projects because of them being over subscribed and then being told they did not attend."

Here is a wonderful piece about Serco attempting to placate the fears of the voluntary sector from last December on the Third Sector website, complete with a scary picture of boss Gareth Matthews:- 
Just saying Serco's name is enough to send some people in the voluntary sector into a rage. For some, the giant services company embodies everything that is wrong in the new age of contracting, in which charities find themselves competing against the financial might of big companies or becoming subcontractors in a supply chain.

Gareth Matthews, business director for Serco's welfare services, believes that, rather than loathing the company, charities should be grateful for its presence in the social welfare market. He points out that it created the "integrator model" of commissioning, where a large organisation works as a prime contractor, then subcontracts work to smaller organisations in a supply chain.

Overall, Matthews believes that the benefits of working with the third sector outweigh the risks. "The third sector is very innovative," he says. "To be honest, I could spend a decade building up that experience in-house. By and large, I just capitalise on it and it delivers fantastic results."

Yes Gareth, it worked really well on the Work Programme! Anyway, finally on to G4S and their corporate theme song. Yes they do have one and it's just as bad as you might imagine it to be. It can be heard here on the New Statesman website, but if you want to sing along, and I admit I have tried it, the lyrics are as follows:- 

You love your job and the people too
Making a difference is what you do
But consider all you have at stake
The time is now don't make a mistake
Because the enemy prowls, wanting to attack
But we're on the wall, we've got your back
So get out front and take the lead
And be the winner you were born to be
G4S! protecting the world
G4S! so dreams can unfurl

24/7 every night and day
A warrior stands ready so don't be afraid
G4S! secure in your world
G4S! let your dreams unfurl

We're guarding you with all our might
Keeping watch throughout the night


  1. A song that Kim iL Jong would be proud of :)

    What is maddening is that somebody thought it was a good idea!!


    Maybe Probation could have a song?

    I must mention that references to Mr Grayling in the song must not contain words that sound like Cucking and Funt ;)

  2. Can we have that on a billboard somewhere?

  3. TheUrbaneGorilla27 July 2013 at 10:16

    A G4S theme song - I cannot believe you haven't made that up Jim - though I do recall some sad consultant (i.e. Chief's chum) at a long ago Area meeting suggesting that probation staff should all have Asda type uniforms and hats.

    Anyway, if they really need a song, what's wrong with Tomorrow Belongs To Me?

    1. It is sing a long Saturday!

    2. TheUrbaneGorilla27 July 2013 at 13:28

      There are certain songs which lend themselves to parody viz. All contributions welcome:

      Tune: “The Admiral’s Song” from HMS Pinafore


      When I was a lad I served a term
      Apprentice boy to a Probation firm
      I assessed bailees and then some more
      And I polished up the knocker on the hostel door

      (Chorus) He polished up the knocker on the hostel door!

      I polished up that knocker with such gusto
      That I passed the assessment for TPO.


      As TPO my star a star did shine
      Assignments submitted bang on time
      Evidence based and word count right
      My practice reviewed reflective-like

      (Chorus) His practice reviewed reflective-like!

      I reviewed my practice with such aplomb
      That I was seconded to the DOM.


      At the DOM’s right hand I made my mark
      Seminars, policies and all that lark
      No offenders to disturb my peace
      My OASys QA was the closest reached.

      (Chorus) His OASys QA was the closest reached!

      My OASys QA were so pristine
      That I was selected to lead a team.


      Too much work and crap IT
      Managing a team was not for me
      A secondment to NOMS on EPIC I saw
      Grabbing my coat I was out the door

      (Chorus) Grabbing his coat he was out the door!

      A desk at NOMs (but still crap IT)
      At least I was safe at the Ministry.


      That dreadful day at last it dawned
      Rehabilitation being Transformed
      NPS or a NEWCO?
      I was TUPEed over to SERCO

      (Chorus) He was TUPEed over to SERCO!

      Conditions and terms are long ago dreams
      Am I parked or am I creamed?


      Your turn now colleagues!

    3. Excellent - will it have a choral rendering at Napo's AGM at the Venue Cymru, Llandudno from Thursday 17 to Saturday 19 October?

  4. I suppose someone has to employ those second rate rejects from those equally awful TV talent programmes - they may as well get shafted by G4S, as any other heartless, money grabbing tyrant; think he's called Simon? Just for Obi Wan - I may try to put some lyrics together....all in good taste of course.

    P.S .Really good news to see the NAPO membership stirring things up a little.

  5. I have always had a soft spot for Mike Harding, the Rochdale Cowboy bloke and folk music advocate and presenter.

    I expect I first saw him perform on TV in the 70s when I lived in Maghull, formerly in West Lancashire. On a cherished night out with my wife when our first child was an infant he had me in gales of laughter at the theatre on the front at nearby Southport.

    Thereafter I sometimes heard his folk music show on Radio 2 from which for some strange reason he was replaced at the end of last year.

    Since then he has established a weekly internet folk show, and consequently I have tweeted him in response to stuff he has broadcast. It turns out he has or had a close friend who was a probation officer. It was my aim for us anti privateer probation supporters to get a modern folk song - so many are about workers experiences, as I have been reminded as I follow his weekly show.

    All the past ones are available as Podcats (that is a typo that can stand!)

    But what joy when Napo colleagues from Yorkshire came up with this ditty:-

    The visuals are pretty good too and I genuinely smile with each playing, what do you think of it?

  6. The G4S anthem is more suitable as a song for Clockwork Orange. A song for mercenaries. It takes cynicism and perversity to new depths. As already noted, the chilling 'Tomorrow belongs to me' would be more apt. Though I am not really keen to put G4S to music as I'd rather put it to the sword.

    This is the company that was judged by an Inquest jury to have unlawfully killed Jimmy Mubenga, 46, who was about to return to his native Angola on a British Airways flight in October 2010 when the three G4S security guards restrained him. And what was found on the mobile phone of the guards – a string of racist jokes. As his wife said following the inquest: "Jimmy was fit and healthy on the plane and came off dead.”

    1. If you want some serious and very interesting reading then google " our kingdom news for G4S.
      Sorry but staying annon.

      Probably a better link to look about on to find lots of little gems about G4S and Serco.

  7. The indicative ballot results are encouraging, though I would be potentially more encouraged to know the turnout figure.

    1. Yes, I was wondering that....

    2. I very much doubt that a one day strike will achieve anything. I would go as far to say that the vast majority of PO's would re-arrange their diary so that no clients attend and are inconvenienced and their colleagues similarly so. What we do need in terms of a strike is to walk out and not return until we have what we want. Be this a week, fortnight, month or whatever!!!

      Imagine the chaos when no reports are being wrote for the Courts/Prisons/Parole Board. Seriously, just take a moment or two to imagine the impact of something as simple as this, something we all do on a daily basis.

      The just imagine the impact of our targets not been met in terms of timeliness of Oasys and Programme delivery.

      And just imagine how NOMS/MoJ are going to feel when we ask that an additional condition of our return to work is that ALL back pay for when we are off is paid. Just advise them, quite simply, the longer we are out the greater the amount the will have to pay.

      And we need to remain resolute; that's the most important thing.

      Somehow, I don't think that NAPO (who I pay my monthly fees to) have the balls for this.

      I might be wrong, and hope I am, but doubt it.

    3. Obi Wan,

      You hit the nail on the head perfectly! In the past as you say PO's have skirted around one day strikes so as not to inconvenience people - an almost pointless exercise - but it might be different this time as it's the whole service, job and profession at stake! As you say, lets hope so.



  8. I agree a one-day strike would be gesture politics. We need a concerted and persistent campaign that may require extended strike action. It is good to have moved to the stage of discussing tactics as not too long ago a ballot seemed a distant hope.