Tuesday, 17 September 2013

The Deal that isn't a Deal, Deal

I can't put this off any longer. I've got to try and make sense of what is supposed to be happening during the 'consultation' period that starts on Thursday, the day we're all being encouraged to be 'out at lunch' apparently as General Secretary Ian Lawrence explains in his latest blog post:-

"Next week is a huge one for the Napo campaign (Campaign Bulletins, Weekly updates and latest BR memos to bring you up to speed with what's going on) We expect that Chris Grayling will signal the great probation sell off and that's why we are asking Napo members to show their anger by way of lunchtime demonstrations that day. It's not a strike but it represents an opportunity to mark this highly provocative move by the Secretary of State to push on with his agenda despite failing to provide the workforce with guarantees about their pensions, security of employment and terms and conditions and before the small matter of two more at least Parliamentary debates about his shambolic plans." 

Thursday 19th September is of course the day the government has chosen to publicly advertise the vast majority of probation work for competitive tender.

Just to set the context, the relevant unions including Napo have been conducting negotiations with the employers and MoJ through the National Negotiating Council for months, but these have 'stalled' and there is a draft agreement only. Unison explain it thus:- 

Talks took place at the NNC on Friday 30 August and Tuesday 4 August with a view to finalising proposals for the above agreement, in time for the trade unions to consult members prior to a meeting of the full NNC on 18 September. Negotiations were conducted in good faith, but it was not possible for the negotiators to conclude discussions in time to hit this timetable. This was acknowledged by both sides of the NNC.

In light of this, the following has been agreed:

NNC talks will continue with the aim of producing completed proposals in time for these to be considered by UNISON’s National Probation Committee and Napo’s NEC,  both of which are meeting on 17 September

·         On 18 September a special meeting of the NNC will meet to review the outcome of the negotiations and any draft agreement, as well as reflecting on the response of UNISON’s National Probation Committee and Napo’s NEC to the outcome of the talks
·         From 19 September, a 28 day consultation will commence to put the final draft agreement to UNISON and Napo members

UNISON’s National Probation Committee will come to its own view on the final proposals and will communicate this to members as part of the 28 day consultation.

In light of these developments, it will not now be possible for UNISON Probation branches and activists to consult members on the draft transfer agreement next week as planned, simply because negotiations on the draft agreement have not been concluded.

I apologise for any inconvenience that this postponement of member consultation causes, and recognise that branches and activists will have put in place arrangements for the week commencing 9 September, which will now need to be cancelled. Further information on the rescheduled consultation process, proposed for later this month, will be provided to branches and activists as soon as possible.

If I've understood correctly, as things stand at the moment, members are going to be consulted on this draft, but advised under no circumstances to discuss this with individual Trust employers from Thursday when invited to meet them. To try and avoid the inevitable confusion, Napo and Unison have issued a joint statement and each branch has communicated with members along the following lines:-

This morning I have received joint UNISON / NAPO guidance from our national UNISON officer regarding how activists and officials and members should interact with Probation Trusts during the 28 day consultation on the national transfer of staff to the new NPS / CRCs and associated protections which is due to start on the 19th of September. 

There may be a certain amount of conflicting information circulating in relation to the consultation. UNISON will be making the following points clear to trust management in order to avoid any confusion or misunderstanding during the consultation: 
  • During the 28 day consultation period, Napo and UNISON will be consulting members on the latest version of a draft National Agreement on Staff Transfer and Protections. This is currently under negotiation at the National Negotiating Council (NNC).
  • It is not the final version and members have an opportunity in the 28 day consultation period decreed by the Justice Secretary to comment on the draft agreement and let us know what they would like changed, or improved.
  • Napo and UNISON will then take members’ views back into the NNC negotiations which will have to resume following the 28 consultation period.

In light of these points UNISON / NAPO have issued the following advice to all members: 
  • During the same 28 consultation period, the Justice Secretary has asked Probation Trusts to consult with their staff, via the recognised trade unions, in anticipation of the transfer of staff to either the NPS or CRCs. There is a danger that this consultation will stray into the application of the draft national agreement to real people and real posts. This must not happen.
  • Napo and UNISON are very clear that until we have agreed the National Agreement on Staff Transfer and Protections, which will not happen before the end of the 28 day consultation period, it is not possible for Trusts to have any detailed conversations with unions, or staff, locally on the split of staff into NPS or CRCs, because the methodology for the split will not have been agreed.
  • Members should not enter into any one-to-one discussions with their Probation Trust in relation to the impact of the workforce split on their own circumstances during the 28 day consultation period, or give any undertakings to their employer in relation to the proposed split of the workforce This is simply because, until the split process and protections have been agreed at the NNC, neither employer, nor employee, will have the full information on which to base an individual discussion.

All Napo/UNISON engagement in these consultations/negotiations is without prejudice to our total ongoing opposition to the Government’s Transforming Rehabilitation proposals. 

If you are approached to discuss anything in relation to staffing,  transfers or your personal circumstances with the Trust management, please contact me straight away.

So, that's how things appear to be at the moment, in a mess, but that's par for the course of an omnishambles. Word is that MoJ/Noms are not going to budge and the draft will be 'take it or leave it'. Be prepared folks for the union line to be 'it's the best we can get'.

Things could change of course and readers are advised to remain on high alert during these dark and difficult days. Just as an aside, I commented the other day that it seemed to me that many Trusts had begun preparing for TR 18 months or so ago, for instance by splitting teams into high and low risk with PO's and PSO's conveniently split in readiness. Am I correct in this regard, and if so, was it a case of Napo just not noticing?    


  1. My own position is as follows.

    This consultation is tokenistic and designed simply to allow Grayling to tick a box that says he consulted. If the deal is not completed, it is simply wrong to commence a consultation. The unions should seek to delay the commencement of the consultation until the proposals are agreed.

    It's like trying to start a 12 month guarantee before you decide what it is you are buying. Why are we colluding with this insanity?

    1. I agree with Anonymous: this consultation is spurious and collusive. It is no wonder people are confused. Napo, for all the bombast, is in Oliver Twist mode – begging for more. Contrary to what Ian Lawrence wrote in his blog on 23 August: '..to try and secure a framework agreement that guarantees the protections that we know you would want to see in place.' - there will be no guarantees or meaningful protections in place.

      And lately we hear from Ian that industrial action is a 'racing certainty'. I think not and I agree that Napo will at some point turn round and say this is the best we could get.

      It remains my belief that Napo officials are half-hearted about any form of industrial action. Sure, they will support pathetic lunchtime sideshows, their red line is to prevent redundancies reaching into Napo headquarters.

    2. I fail to see what impact protesting for an hour during lunch break is going to have on anything. It like prisoners using their allotted exercise period to have a sit down protest on the excercise yard and returning to their cells once their times up. That showed them eh?
      Have any of the local papers radio stations been notified that these protests are likley to be happening in the hope that something may filter through to the national press?
      I think its quite a pathetic gesture that comes far to late in the arguement.
      Grayling no doubt will have a table booked for Thursday, and laugh his socks off whilst sipping a glass of fine wine.
      As for the rest of it, when is a deal really a deal? I'm just getting more and more confused and angry about it all.
      I dont want any deals. I want the probation service to remain in the public sector, and I want to be reading about whats being done to make that happen, and what the agencies fighting probations corner want from me to assist them achieve that objective.
      Lunch hour protest? Lets not have a cup of tea all day either and really show them we're serious.

    3. The real reason Thursdays lunchtime 'protest' has been called is so the MoJ can have all the offices cleared to allow the contractors plenty of room to measure up!

    4. The media have been informed locally and NAPO and UNISON handouts will be distributed to the public. This 'lunchtime' action is a gesture of defiance to mark Grayling's betrayal, not industrial action to prevent it.

    5. The point is when is something going to be done to try and prevent it?
      Just saying we dont like it and we dont want it isn't going to change his mind.
      I don't feel betrayed by Grayling either. I don't like what he's doing, and I think he's wrong to to it, but he's doing exactly what he said he was going to do, sell the service.
      I am however begining to feel betrayed by those in consultation behind closed doors discussing deals.
      It's not about registering upset at whats happening, or deciding whats an acceptable deal of resolution. It's about a public service, and a good one too, thats being destroyed by ideological blindness.
      Maybe someone can answer this and make me feel less angry about it all. Forget about talking deals and taking industrial action if the exit deal offered isn,t acceptable, but specifically:
      What action and what attempts have there been since Grayling announced TR to stop it happening? And whos taken this action and made these attempts?
      Individuals may have taken it upon themselves to contact their mp or local paper, and those who have deserve full credit for doing so.
      But with the clock about to strike midnight, what real structured or organised resistance has there been to TR?

  2. You are quite correct in your regard Jim, teams have been split between PO's and PSO's and so called high and low risk although the criteria for which seems very arbitrary. I assumed NAPO and UNISON knew as the managers of such teams are members.

  3. The question I'd like answered is, if it is a 'take it or leave it' deal, what happens if we vote 'leave it'? How can I make any meaningful choice without knowing the consequences? (Can you tell I've been reading TSP reports today?)

  4. What riles me is that any industrial action will be about not getting the right deal and not about saving our public service.

  5. http://naponewsonline.org/2013/09/17/nec-endorses-napos-industrial-action-strategy/

  6. in the light of the SCR on Daniel Pelka revealing that agencies weren't communicating with each other I would urge you all to email your MP (particularly if he is a Tory) and ask the one question I have.

    In the light of the Daniel Pelka tragedy, can you tell e how splitting a high performing Probation Service into fragments will improve public safety.

    "It's not one that they will be able to answer.
    The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis."
    Dante Alighieri

    1. Great question! at 18.22 from Anon

      Andrew Hatton

    2. Agreed. I've already emailed it to my MP (Tory) and intend circulating it to all my NAPO colleagues tomorrow at work to get them to send it off, too.

  7. Oh,and those pesky people at West Yorkshire PT - never shy of seeking glory - have put a questionnaire on Oli - asking staff to express their feelings about TR etc - The cynical will think there are trying to pre-empt the post consultation period. They wouldn't do that, would they?

  8. Taking Excellence to the End _ Fascinating stuff from CEO West Mercia:-


    "Early in the process I recall making the point at a conference I had been asked to speak at that "form should follow function", all I am saying is that the form that demonstrably delivers these desired functions is the West Mercia Probation Trust."

    "So, those are my thoughts for September, come next month we'll be into the last six months, a cheery thought for the on-coming winter, but then there's always spring. Why do we probation officers also have to be so damn optimistic?"