"Today, at the TUC Congress in Bournemouth, Napo General Secretary Ian Lawrence told delegates that 'negotiations with the Ministry of Justice are in disarray' and that 'industrial action was a racing certainty'.
Napo is keen to emphasise that it has done everything humanly possible to emphasise to the Ministry of Justice the implications of the risk their ill thought through plans pose to the public and has also put these concerns firmly and directly to both the Secretary for Justice and the Deputy Prime Minister only to be met with stock answers based on misleading information about reoffending.
The probation service is high performing and meets all its targets unlike parts of the Criminal Justice System that have already been outsourced such as tagging, prisons, prisoner escort, and Courts interpreting services.
Industrial action is always taken very reluctantly as a last resort by Napo, however, what is at stake at this time is the very existence of a comprehensive integrated and effective award winning public service that currently has a highly skilled work force that always places public protection integrity, and high standards before and above profit and commercial considerations."
Pat Waterman, Chair of Napo Greater London Branch, at the TUC Congress Bournemouth September 2013
Now this is very interesting because of course seemingly there will be no deal to discuss and possibly agree at the next NEC meeting on 17th September, just two days before the MoJ intends firing the gun and formally advertising the probation contracts via the appropriate European Journals. If I've understood things correctly (but who does?) this then triggers a formal four week consultation period between each Probation Trust as employers, and their respective staff.
But what will they actually be consulting on, given the stalling of negotiations? I suppose it will be what the MoJ feel like imposing. Rather worryingly, according to twitter conversations, at least one Trust, Merseyside, is telling its staff that they will be informed by the end of this month if they are destined for the NPS or a CRC. Now presumably this assertion is being made as a presumption of a deal having been agreed and ratified before the end of the month? It's just another example of how crazy the timetable is for this omnishambles.
In trying to get my head around what the hell is going on, I found the following communication sent last week between a branch chair and their members useful, and as a contribution towards the discussion and debate, I hope they will not mind me publishing it here, but anonymised:-
I have just returned from yesterdays NEC forum on the transfer arrangements for the National Probation Service and the Community Rehabilitation Company. You will have already seen the documents sent out last week and I have received comments from many of you which I was able to share with the NAPO top table yesterday. At this point in time there is still no clear proposal on the method of transfer on the table. We are still expecting appendix B before Thursday's Branch meeting in xxxxxxx. Not having this appendix means we could not discuss the issues or agree the proposals so it is still not clear as to whether the leadership want to support the offer. This is also true of appendix C which concerns itself with the future of our pensions. Following Thursdays Branch meeting I will sending out a list of workplace meetings where, if these documents are produced they can be fully discussed before the NEC on the 17th September where NAPO will call a vote to either accept these proposals or reject them . WE NEED YOUR INVOLVEMENT..!! What is clear to me and others in the branch that with the AGM so close, the NEC is too small and would not represent the fullest of consultations.
Members have been asking me how I see things in the brave new world. Well, following detailed conversations with colleagues across the country and experienced Trade Union lawyers my best guess is this…
Between now and March there will be frantic work by MOJ and NOMs, supported by Trust management in some cases, to ensure staff are transferred to the new structure without too much resistance. Lambs and slaughterhouses comes to mind!! MOJ and NOMs will offer a number of sweeteners to staff to make you believe all is well and they have your best interest at heart. From April we will all be in our destined location within Graylings mad world awaiting the sell off which will begin in October. JUST OVER A YEAR AWAY..!! At that point some of us will be anxiously waiting to see who our next employer will be. Throughout this time our friends at the MOJ and NOMs will continue to assure us they know what they are doing and only want see services run as normal...
Anytime after October 2014 we could see the transfer of many CRC's into private hands and there are good indications of the consequences of that. From 2015 30% reductions will mean many of you will go.. well 30% of you..!! There will be increased workloads.. No one from MOJ/NOMs has yet described how they envisage the additional 50,000 offenders on licence are going to be worked yet..!! There will obviously be less staff on poorer terms and conditions working in who knows what office. The estates is something else taxing the minds of MOJ..!! As for the grades of staff I personally think the PO grade will be gone from the CRC within 5 years, half way through the contract and that's being conservative. The companies that will hold the contracts will be ensuring they squeeze every last bit of profit from the CRC and that will mean more work, more target driving processes, less staff and poorer pay.. Simple..!! At that point even the Mutual lifeboat will begin to leak.. There are previous examples that many mutuals will only last a few years and those who have colluded with the big boys will find themselves bought out with large senior management payouts for those who have placed themselves at the helm of the raft. I see no comfort or security in the hands of mutuals and for those who wish to pursue this option.. OFF YOU GO and don't feather your nest on tax payers time.!! Many of you will have read our letter to the board chair asking how the time of a public paid staff can be deployed in this way to support privatisation? When we get that reply we will circulate it.
As for colleagues in NPS.. well I can see nothing good there.. high work loads, high pressure of working with dangerous offenders, relentless PSR's, crippling bureaucracy to name just a few issues already highlighted by information I am receiving.
Sorry members if I come across as being negative.. I have read and talked as much as I can on the future and these are my honest conclusions about how the national picture will develop.. and it's no good thinking that we will be ok in the xxxxxxxx with the nice people from xxxxxxxxxx as the demise of the current national probation service will impact on the collective terms and conditions for all, including those in Mutuals or joint ventures.
The fight is not over…!! Your Union officials will continue to fight to derail these plans and change the future. We will put every last ounce of energy in fighting for our service. BUT we must have all members with us. Please attend the meetings and ensure you continue to press your MP's for support and continue to press us for new ways to campaign.
On the subject of those contract variations that the MoJ are imposing on each Trust, clearly people have been engaging with Trust Chairs and here is one slightly irritable and curt response. It's a shame they didn't see fit to communicate their smug assumption a bit earlier:-
There have been a number of questions and comments on the Talking Wall about changes to Probation Trust contracts with the Ministry of Justice.
It is accurate that all Trusts have contracts with the Ministry of Justice for the delivery of services. This is the contract through which we receive a majority of our funding. The current contract may be terminated by 12 months notice.
All Trusts have been given notice within the last couple of weeks that new contract termination provisions will be implemented during September which will permit the Ministry of Justice to terminate contracts in time for the proposed transfer to the newly created National Probation Service and local Community Rehabilitation Companies on 1 April 2014.
Probation Trusts have not been asked to accept the new termination provisions – we expect the Ministry of Justice will implement the changes using the mandatory variation provisions already in the contract.
This development comes as no surprise to xxxxxxxxxx Probation which had anticipated that the current contract would be brought to an end in line with Transforming Rehabilitation timescales.
And finally I'm grateful to regular contributor Andrew for highlighting the following advice from Napo Greater London Branch concerning the increasing difficulty of keeping the show on the road when your political masters are doing their very best to destroy a fine public service:-
Let's acknowledge that we are all working under a very high level of stress and anxiety and do what we can to deal with it.
At the risk of being repetitive I would advise you all to work only your contracted hours and do only what you can within that time. As a rule of thumb if you are doing 5 hours a week in excess of your contracted hours and struggling to take TOIL then there is a problem. See your manager and discuss.
If for example when the computer crashes, and you lose the report you've spent all day writing, fill in an A&I form, send it to your manager and for goodness sake don't stay in the office until all hours rewriting it. If you do stay late remember the sensible thing to do is to make an arrangement to take time off.
If you have to cover for an absent colleague discuss the situation with your manager and don't try to do the work of two people.
WMT in the red? Don't just grit your teeth and put up with it. Discuss it with your manager.
Remember that not only does your employer have a legal responsibility to ensure their working practices are not detrimental to your health and well being but you also have a legal responsibility to look after yourself at work.
Overworking can have a serious impact on your health, your ability to work at your best, and affects all those who know you.