Thursday, 29 August 2013

Decision Day Approaches

Regular readers of this blog, and you now number in excess of 1,300 per day, will be aware that I've been highly critical of Napo in recent weeks for the apparent lack of any evidence that we were involved in a fight for survival. 

Well, we now know the reason because all the energy has been put into dancing to the MoJ/NOMS tune in the form of negotiations concerning the 'human resource implications' of TR. Call me simple, but I fail to see how you can be fully engaged in a campaign of opposition, at the very same time as you are negotiating the terms of surrender?

All Napo members received an e-mail yesterday 28th August informing them as follows:-

 Current Negotiations

As in our last update message, members will know that we have been in negotiations with the PA (probation employers) and Ministry of Justice officials over the human resource implications of the government’s plans for privatisation.  Engaging in this is an essential (albeit unpleasant) part of our work as a trade union.  It means we can attempt to secure the best deal for members in the worst case scenario.  All of this takes place against a backdrop of vigorous campaigning against the sell off and is therefore something of a tightrope walk.  It is important to remember that nothing is yet agreed.  A draft document of broad principles, in which we are aiming to enshrine a commitment to national collective bargaining, no compulsory redundancy, protection of terms and conditions etc, is ready to be put to Napo’s National Executive Committee for agreement or otherwise.  A proposal on the “staff split” is still subject to negotiations.

Your NEC Representatives and the Probation Negotiating Committee have been invited to attend a special forum to discuss all the issues on 2nd September 2013.  The vote on whether to accept or reject any proposals from the employers will take place at the scheduled NEC meeting on 17th September 2013.  NEC Reps will receive a briefing paper on this and we have written separately to Chairs and Secretaries of branches to help facilitate local discussions.  The timetable is extraordinarily reckless and we continue to make those representations to the government.  Despite that, we have successfully managed to extend the deadline from the end of August 2013 to allow for our own democratic structures.

Basically Napo have taken the pragmatic view that it was preferable to negotiate rather than have terms dictated by MoJ/NOMS. I've seen the documents outlining what has been tentatively agreed so far because someone has kindly sent them to me. 

The argument will be one very familiar to members 'it is the best that can be achieved in the circumstances'. The circumstances being a membership that has no appetite for a serious fight and a union leadership unable or unwilling to lead a serious fight. A meaningless Indicative Ballot because we are not allowed to know the turnout. And please, lets not re-rehearse the arguments about how we got here and it's all the fault of apathetic members. Been there, done that and it doesn't progress matters.

We will never know what might have happened had Napo decided not to negotiate and instead put all their time and effort into a spirited campaign that actively engaged the membership and wider public. Extraordinarily, their actions have in fact disengaged much of the membership who have abandoned the Napo forum pages and instead expressed frustration and irritation here. 

The timetable for the membership to be consulted and the NEC to make a decision is just too daft for words - two weeks - but as the e-mail to members says:- "we have successfully managed to extend the deadline from the end of August 2013 to allow for our own democratic structures."

At least one person has speculated on the likely attendance at an NEC to be held on a Monday that involves for many the start of the new school year for their children. Is it really feasible for branches to organise meetings and gauge the opinion of members in just a fortnight on a subject so important, complicated and fundamental to their futures? 

No doubt this is a topic to which I will return in the coming days and pick over in detail exactly what the deal is that members are being asked to sign up to. As ever, readers comments and contributions will be most welcome.       


  1. I was surprised to receive the email: TR Weekly Update – I was not aware of any other weekly missives on the TR subject from Napo to personal in-boxes. So it's clear that the Napo leadership want something – for their negotiations to be endorsed by the membership. Previously Napo's general secretary wrote in his blog about 'guaranteeing protections', we now get this wording in the TR Update: '...aiming to enshrine a commitment to national collective bargaining, no compulsory redundancy, protection of terms and conditions etc.'

    As the missive reminds us: 'Engaging in this is an essential (albeit unpleasant) part of our work as a trade union. It means we can attempt to secure the best deal for members in the worst case scenario.'

    Aiming to 'enshrine a commitment'. This sounds weaker than a guarantee. I am sorry but I don't see these 'unpleasant' negotiations as being in the interests of the membership. What is a 'best deal'? what is a 'worst case scenario?' Napo never tell you. As with the indicative ballot turnout, you are expected to put your faith – literally faith - in the leadership. Napo dissembles: they go through the motions of resistance, as a kind of reflex actions, keep the few activists occupied – but the real action is indoors and in private. That's where Napo made decisions about selling off members' jobs.

    To engage in negotiations is a decision that Napo took. It could have hammered home the real worst case scenario of massive job cuts, but instead it chose to sell those jobs. Unpleasant business indeed. Still not as unpleasant as being outsourced or thrown on the dole.

    This is the sell out. This is a union elite more interested in its own survival. Maybe they will lose members through redundancies, but Napo will survive as an entity which will be a unique achievement considering the fate of other bodies – collective and individual.

    1. Yes lots of people were surprised to suddenly get that e-mail update out of the blue!

      Very well put as usual netnipper and an analysis I find difficult to argue with.

      I didn't feel it right to go into the details prior to another NNC meeting scheduled for tomorrow and at which it's expected to agree the remaining issues such as the Staff Transfer Framework.

      I guess all will become clear following the NEC meeting on Monday when the details will have to be shared with members.

      We are heading for even more interesting times over the coming weeks.



  2. I too over recent weeks have become increasingly pissed at the phase "NAPO is it's membership". Well I doubt if anyone can arguee that anymore.
    The executive have, maybe from day one, decided to negoiate terms rather then fight against TR. And there is a difference between saying you disagree with TR and actually fighting to stop it happening.
    NAPO is its membership? Well its membership have been to date unaware that all the executive were focused on was negotiating terms. No wonder theres been no rallying of the troops, no information given, and no national agenda on opposition to TR. There was never any fight planned anyway.
    Now its all going to be sorted out in a two week period? And if its not it will be because theres a disagreement over terms of surrender. Saving the service has never been on the agenda.
    NAPO is its membership. Thats a load of bubbolox. Most of the membership have been excluded, not only from information, direction and leadership, but from even knowing what the executive have decided to do on BEHALF of its membership.

  3. Individual Napo Members can get out their constitutions - I am dyslexic and cannot put my hands on mine, or find one on the Napo website - and work out how to call an emergency branch meeting.

    Via that Branch Meeting they can submit a motion to the National Executive Committee to the effect that TR negotiations shall be stopped now and no offer will be made to members for a ballot.

    We would then see what the employers did.

    Locally they can also be contacting their Trust chairs and members and saying they do not want them to agree to end the Trust in less than the 12 month time parliament initially allowed.

    Hopefully some Probation Trust members read this, especially some CEOs who have probation practice and so know that what is announced for TR will in my considered(40 years since I started training)opinion be harder to deliver than the existing statutory probation functions, will increase the prison population and will increase the risk of crime on the wider populace.

    Probation Trust members should therefore refuse to endorse the early end of their Trusts as to do anything else will not be looking after the interests of the public.

    1. Tolkny

      How long has it been since the government announced TR? And how long have NAPO members been aware of what approach the executive are taking to that announcement?
      A lot of time has passed with the membership totally ignorant of the direction taken by the executive.
      We become aware of that direction just as the clock is set to strike midnight. I know you will disagree, but I find that not only bad practice, but bad manners also.
      I also feel it dangerous to assume that all NAPO members have the same level of awareness with regard to process, protocol and proceedure as you have. Many members pay their subscription believing it will purchase them some protection. They believe responsibility for that protection lays with the executive. They have paid for something, but the whys, hows, whens is not something they concern themselves with. A bit like buying a TV. No interest in how it works just as long as it does what I paid for it to do.

    2. I agree what I suggest may be bad manners and also that many/most Napo members are not aware of our processes.

      Hence, better late than never, I once interrupted a Judge as he was announcing sentence,that is more than rude, it might almost be contempt of court- it is certainly never done. However, he had begun to make a mistake - he was gracious and it all ended happily - folk who become probation officers need to go to the limits of 'polite behaviour conventions' at times because we deal with matters of liberty and life.

      The life of probation itself is worth being rude about.

      As for folk being aware of Napo's processes - I first began to become aware in the car driving to the Emergency General Meeting in Preston in the late 1970s when my fellow, older & wiser passengers were talking about the process of that emergency general meeting.

      Thereafter I learned more as the constitutional amendments came up every three years(normally) at AGMs - if we learn at the time of a crisis, better than not learning at all.

      I still urge people to join Napo, Unison or SCOOP, though if they are eligible for any two, which PSOs certainly are, I strongly suggest Napo - even now and even though the subs are more(probably) than Unison's. In Napo EVERY full member has an opportunity to vote at every general meeting - Unison only hold delegate general meetings.

      PS. I was trying to research some old Napo stuff via the earliest Probation Journals - accessible on line for members at no extra charge - I needed to get help from Napo HQ to do it and emailed. In my thank you response - just sent - I asked for help in locating on line the constitution. I plan to report further but as I have a date with a surgeon within 24 hours, that may not be for a while.

      Andrew Hatton

  4. Rob Palmer here. Firstly, the weekly update was no surprise as it is at leadt the third I have received. Also, my branch was told, by Ian Lawrence in person and by Mike McLelland at our AGM, that NAPO has to both fight the changes AND negotiate. I was also told the same by our CEO in terms of the Trust perspective (and our CEO is involved with gam/scoop in national negotiation). In short, it is not accurate to suggest that NAPO are not opposing the changes or seeking to save the service. They are caught between a rock and a hard place, the same as the rest of us.

    1. With regard to weekly updates, I have only ever received one – the present one. If there have been two previous ones then that covers the present month of August. So even three updates is nothing to celebrate in the context of TR. I don't accept there has been a balance struck between resistance and negotiations. The fact is we are now at a point where the Napo negotiators are going to put forward the fruits of their negotiations to a vote.

      We will get: this is the best we could achieve, it will be repeated we are between a rock and a hard place, if you reject this proposed agreement, you run the risk of losing money through enhanced redundancy payments. If this agreement is accepted, the so-called resistance/fight against TR is over.

      Napo should have been fighting. Has Napo been negotiating from a position of strength or weakness? I assume weakness because I have not seen any evidence of strength, I have seen no urgency to fight, no weekly updates urging resistance - spelling out the consequences of large scale unemployment across all grades of staff.

      And apart from enhanced redundancy payment, I do not believe anything else, whether 'guaranteed', or 'enshrined' will be a bulwark when TR lets rip. These negotiations will count for nothing, just as appeasement policies never work. We needed lions and we got lambs.

      You only have to look at what happened in London with SERCO. Having 'deleted' all 68 case administrators, they came for more. To quote Napo: 'However, no sooner was the ink dry on the trade union recognition agreement when Serco announced its plans to make 99 redundancies.'


    2. Theres been more information posted by the MoJ then NAPO if the truth be known.
      It should not be an exclusive we know whats what club.
      You sold out. Thats it.

  5. At what stage can the membership expect some information regarding what ever proposed action and course NAPO intend to take in its attempt to save the service? There's not but a few grains of sand left in the hourglass now.
    I've always thought negotiation of terms came after the fight, but I guess I've just watched too many old war movies.

  6. Negotiations can come before, during AND after the fight. Depends what you are negotiating for.

  7. Given Sercos' involvement with the tagging scandal, and yesterdays news of fraud by Serco regarding its prisoner transport contract, how can Chris Grayling use Sercos pilot scheme at H.M.P Doncaster relating to PbR as evidence of PbR being a successful model?
    Is he hopeful that Sercos' pilot scheme contract for PbR will be as corrupt as all their others?

  8. Grayling is hoping that any problems with PbR will be released after the service is toast and it will be all too late. SERCO will be vindicated just in time to allow them to "compete" with the likes of Sodexo etc. for the pickings of the defunct Probation Service. Our only hope is that the ConDems fall over due the Syria issue -otherwise Grayling is a man in a hurry. Perhaps we should use any funds left over from NAPO falling down to buy shares in the provider companies and create mayhem at the AGMs etc. Just a thought.

  9. I've been a NAPO member pretty much since day one of me joining Probation. Once this shambles is over, and I either know where I stand, or indeed what stance I then take, one thing is sure is that I will be ending my membership with NAPO!!

    It's not just the Probation Service that TR has fecked!