As all families are only too well aware, it's at times of stress that people are likely to show their true colours. I tend to think of Probation as a family and we're in the middle of a fight for our very survival. In a situation like this, we're likely to see the best and worst in people. Old animosities and prejudices will surface, scapegoats sought and blame apportioned. There will be pain and anguish as some normally rational and professional colleagues try and gain advantage or curry favour. It's not going to be pretty or for the feint-hearted. There will be tears before bedtime.
It strikes me that this blog has come to occupy quite a strange position in the scheme of things. Whilst officially it remains unacknowledged, readership is steadily increasing and any google search on the subject of probation encouragingly gives the blog a high ranking. I don't seek to be controversial for it's own sake, but rather share what I think is relevant information, with a personal view thrown in. It seems to fill a gap, both judging by the hit counter and contributions from readers, but there are signs that cages are being rattled in certain quarters and it would appear that several Trusts have now blocked access to the site. This is regrettable and somewhat petty, but sadly I think gives an indication of what is bubbling away under the surface.
I've never understood how a union can have within its membership both the rank and file and senior management. Old mining colleagues used to laugh themselves silly at the mere thought of an NUM meeting having pit management in the same room, let alone the same union. It's utterly absurd and surreal to be sat in a Napo branch meeting, as I did once, to discuss the subject of impossibly high caseloads and management bullying, only to find the ACO sat in one corner! Of course it spoke volumes about the social ineptitude of the individual concerned that they felt it appropriate to turn up, but the nettle really should have been grasped many years ago.
I've long been aware that for the rampantly ambitious, active union involvement has never seemed to hinder advancement. In fact the cynical might be tempted to say it considerably assists the process, again causing much amusement amongst former mining colleagues. There was a period when virtually the entire branch executive at my Trust were managers and the Napo Health and Safety rep was my SPO during a dispute over caseloads at my office! In many ways an utterly bizarre union, having to cope with the schizophrenic consequences that flow from also being a professional association.
Meanwhile Napo's General Secretary Ian Lawrence continues to skirt around the recent ballot turnout issue:-
"All things considered the turnout was very healthy, and the fact that traditionally not all members choose to take part in any kind of ballot, or prefer to follow the majority verdict, are also an important factor in the total return. But in case you were wondering the response was a good deal higher in percentage terms than most of the inept Politicians who rule over us manage to achieve in their elections."
What the hell does that mean? I can't help thinking that this year's AGM is going to be very uncomfortable indeed.
Anyway, news reaches me concerning other Trusts and their efforts at match-making. In one instance, apparently no union representatives were invited to a key meeting between Chiefs and a possible suitor, but as is the way of these things, some of what was said has leaked out and it doesn't make pleasant reading. It is said that at this meeting an ACO described PO's as:-
"too rule bound, slaves to a tick box culture, unable to innovate, were dinosaurs, lacked vision, were too expensive and that any future plans must consider reducing pay and even abandoning the PO title as qualified staff will not be required in the new world."
Apparently some people at the meeting were:-
"very unhappy at the rudeness of Trust ACO's and CO's, and very unhappy about how they rubbished what we do" and "Trust managers were desperate to give an impression that they bought into the new world order to try and guarantee their place in it."