Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Situation Critical

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?  


  1. Some days I feel just at a loss in making a valid comment. I do feel though, that those who remain blissfully unaware, or still in some denial about the astoroid thats about to hit, will over the coming months start to squeal very loud indeed. Rank wont count for much. Time served wont count for much. Fingers will point with blame and shouted loudly we will hear, "If we were told that this was going to happen we may have been able to do something".
    Fact is its been there for all of us to see. NAPO could have rang the message louder and ...
    Been there before eh. Got the week off, might just go and get three sheets to the wind.

  2. "It ain't over 'till it's over."

    Trusts Chairs will lose their positions, there will be redundancies across all grades from bottom to top – no one will escape – unless you work for Napo. No redundancies are anticipated at their head office – in fact they are still recruiting. Napo's preoccupation is not fighting TR, it's holding onto as many as possible of its subscribers, aka membership. The preoccupations of Napo's salaried staff are careerist – just another self-absorbed clique, selling jobs in redundancy deals - not fighting for jobs and futures for their membership. To Napo's servants: get some fire in your belly and some ice in your mind.

  3. Perhaps what NAPO members really want is to know if Ian Lawrence's predecessor is off on remedial diversity training facilitated by the Sexual Harassment Panda.


  4. For the umpteenth time - Napo is as good as its members make it and enable it to be.

    Napo is also not the only trades union involved, initially Unison and Scoop(GMB) seem likely to lose a larger proportion of members through redundancy than Napo.

    Facing its biggest challenges for several generations, Napo needs to be well staffed - three key staff members have left in the last two years.

    This is "the final week of the current election round for National Chair, National Treasurer and National Vice-Chair."

    If you are a member have you done what you can to get people to lead Napo who respect your opinions, it may not be too late even now?

    Andrew Hatton

    1. There may be a lot more good will about regarding NAPO if they would bother to post something, somewhere as often as you do Andrew. As Jim pointed out yesterday, we live in an internet age where information can be made available in seconds. Paid leaders should lead and rally the troops.

    2. Andrew,

      And I will repeat Napo members have every right to expect strong and expert leadership from the paid staff. They are not getting it. Yes it may be the fault of the Chair and NEC but the membership is being short-changed and someone's arse needs kicking. Yes there is a leadership ballot and for the life of me I cannot see how the present Chair hopes to be re-elected judging by the catastrophic last year under their term!

    3. Responding to Jim's post at 10.35

      I agree about needing to be well lead and that including frequent updates - that is something I wrote about on the Napo Members' Forum so long ago - I cannot now locate it for reference - I don't think it even had an acknowledgement - but then I am only an associate member and not attending Branch Meetings - surely this is what full members should be demanding of their NEC reps via their local branch meetings?

      Andrew Hatton

  5. As above, a Union is only as good as its members. If members are complacent and dont want to take up arms what more can a Union do? If NAPO is such a dirty word then leave and join Unison or another Union. Rather invest my time in publicising probations plight and doing what I can than waste time complaining about NAPO doing nothing. Oh and to make assumptions that NAPO are ensuring their own nests are feathered is hardly valid when they are likely to loose a majority of its members and there is a real possibility NAPO wont exist in a few years time.

    1. The SAS are a elite unit of the British forces. They are a unit that are only as strong as their membership.
      However, each mission or project engaged upon has a 'leader' appointed. It ensures that someone takes responsibility for sharing information and makes sure that the membership understands the objectives, individual roles, and all are singing from the same hymn sheet.
      Probation are not the SAS. It was just a thought.

    2. There was this fanfare about 92 percent voting in favour about industrial action and then..nothing. There is precious little info from napo but I keep hearing these rumours about negotiations. What happened about listening to those members who voted. Are we purely about appeasement or is napo prepared to at least try and fight. The bottom line is napo have been woeful in the face of this whole sorry mess. Whether this is the fault of the leadership or the members is a moot point and I wholly accept that the current leadership have been put into place by the napo members. However, the paid leadership have gotta try to at least step u to the mark. At present napo is an embarrassment

    3. The key issue with the vote is what the turnout was, and that is secret. 92% of fuck all is - well - fuck all. It's a huge mistake not to just admit the turnout was pathetic - but Napo have been brilliant at crap decisions for some time now

  6. I don't go in for cult of personality, but I do wonder what could have been achieved if we had 35 Joe Kuipers as Trust Chairs, instead of 34 sinecures indulging baser motives.

  7. Civil Society,

    "On line directory of charities working with offenders published".

    All relates to TR.

  8. I note care, wefare, support and public safety are not issues considered in the above mentioned article. Instead the only term that gets a mention (and several times at that) is supply chain.
    Supply chain maybe an acceptable use of language when used in relation to beefburgers, fishfingers or even toilet paper.
    It is not an acceptable (and I take extreme offence) term or phase that should be used when the commodity under discussion is human life.
    It may be said that more may be expected from the voluntry sector given the assumption of some social ethos. Obviously not. Maybe if they choose to use such terminology they would be better viewed in the same profit only fashon that their masters are seen in.
    Supply chain? Go and damned.

  9. Keep_probation_public27 August 2013 at 19:00

    All the conservative/lib dem arguements for privatising probation demolished. Re-offending down. Repeated lie about high re-offending rates for offenders not supervised by probation completely and utterly refuted, private sector shown for the bunch of pirates they are with over charging and failing in services. Yet still the government barrels along and none of the directors, CO, ACO's stepping up and saying this is wrong.

  10. http://www.russellwebster.com/latest-probation-reducing-reoffending-rates/

    Interesting about re-offending rates

  11. I see Joe Kuipers has posted two relevant blog pieces lately - the latest within the last hour.


    1. Thanks - refers to draft agreements between unions and employers - but no details as yet.

    2. According to a Joe Kuipers' Tweet it is "the contract between the Trust and NOMS, which does not deal with staff T&Cs."

    3. Tolkny,

      There are two separate matters - the contract between each Trust and NOMS - which does not deal with staff terms and conditions - but does deal with the period of notice each Trust is entitled to from NOMS. Joe's last post concerns something different - draft terms for transfer of staff.

    4. Point taken - I just don't see how Napo or Unison (I do not have a clue how SCOOP works)can agree a change to national conditions without first balloting members.

      I realise his tweet referenced a different matter.