I don't know about you, but I have a real sense that almost everything that could be said about this whole bloody omnishambles, has been said. There is a danger of us all just endlessly repeating ourselves, but possibly a recap wouldn't go amiss. In this regard I'd like to kick off by quoting a contribution by netnipper from yesterday:-
The blueprint for what's likely to befall probation staff is surely what happened when community service in London was outsourced to Serco. Out of 550 posts pre-privatisation 200 posts were axed by Serco.
With TR all grades of staff will be affected and it would appear there is some consensus that the most vulnerable group will be support staff.
As with Serco, I expect that Napo's efforts will be in seeking to achieve voluntary – above statutory minimum redundancy pay levels - rather than compulsory redundancies. For many the difference will be in jumping before being pushed into unemployment. I imagine if there is a deal struck on voluntary redundancies this will cut the ground under any possibility for industrial action, as the threat will be: if there is a strike there will be no VR agreement.
I only see Napo's strategy as redundancy focused. In light of what happened in London with community service, there could have been great emphasis placed on the imminence of unemployment for many staff, whereas the debate has hovered more around who will be selected for the public service and who will be outsourced. This is a false dichotomy because many of the selected will in fact be axed.
Maybe it would have concentrated the minds of staff. It would not have been a scare tactics, nor dishonest to have built opinion around the likelihood that they were facing unemployment in droves, that there was no guarantee they would still be in work next year. Perhaps under those circumstances a view may have prevailed that while industrial action may not succeed they had nothing to lose because the spectre of unemployment was the true certainty. This, I think, would have put TR under some real rank and file pressure. Instead we get top table negotiations between the unions and government.
In essence and despite the rhetoric, or absence of it from Napo, there is no 'fight to save probation', that opportunity was missed ages ago. For whatever reason, Napo failed to pick a serious fight over the UPW privatisation in London and that sent a powerful signal to MoJ/NOMS. There will be significant redundancies in both NPS and the CRC's and Napo is left merely negotiating the best possible terms from a very weak position.
Concerning the indicative ballot, this from Ian Lawrence on his blog is complete cobblers and must have raised a chuckle rather than ruffle any feathers at MoJ/NOMS HQ:-
I never doubted this, (and word is that the outcome - without us telling Ministers what the healthy turnout was, has ruffled some feathers) but it's important in any campaign of this nature to feel the pulse and examine where our messages are getting through more strongly to some members than others, and for us to take steps to address the gaps.
Netnipper is absolutely right, PO colleagues have been lulled into a false sense of security by assuming they are going to be selected for the NPS and will be ok. The fact is nobody can be sure of being ok because NPS will be so small and will have a much reduced budget. There will also be a massive cull of head office, management and support staff as economies are made. This is not scare-mongering, it's just bloody obvious when back-office functions are rationalised and based on evidence from the London UPW experience where savings had to be made.
Meanwhile there is loads of anecdotal evidence that colleagues of all positions and grades remain either in blissful ignorance or complete denial of the impending revolution that's about to hit their life. I am utterly bemused to understand at what point the penny will finally drop that this really is serious?
In his most recent blog post, Joe Kuipers, Chair of Avon and Somerset Probation Trust, confirms that the PA and PCA have pretty much ceased functioning and there appear to be no behind the scenes meetings taking place. Of enormous significance he also states that all Board Chairs have until August 31st to voluntarily sign away any chance of delaying TR by agreeing to vary the notice period contained in each Trust's contract with the MoJ:-
The matter of contract termination for Trusts has been raised in a blog by another author. This element of the contract variation is marked 'Restricted', and arrived separately from other variation requests. Currently the termination period for Trust contracts is 12 months, but to meet NOMS "confirmed timetable" for TR, amendments to this period are proposed by way of a contract variation. Signing this is a matter for Trust Chairs.
With hindsight, wouldn't it have been a rather useful exercise to have lobbied each Trust Board Chair? Shouldn't they have been reminded in no uncertain terms that, as independent Boards, they just might have a wider remit of responsibility to the public, as opposed to just following government orders?