The ballot papers are in the post and Napo members have a difficult and uncomfortable decision to ponder on this weekend. Being a responsible profession who take their work with clients and helping protect the public very seriously indeed, industrial action of any kind, let alone striking, is extremely unusual and action not taken lightly. I think I'm right in saying there have only been two strikes in 107 years.
Unfortunately for us, such a responsible stance can be misunderstood by government as an indication, or invitation even, to walk all over a workforce with impunity. With Chris Grayling's Transforming Rehabilitation omnishambles proposals we not only have that, but a plan to destroy a whole profession and ethos, just as it is about to be celebrated in London next week with the World Congress of Probation conference.
As joint host of the conference, the Minister of Justice will be delivering a keynote speech, but sadly will not be allowing bemused delegates to question his reasons for destroying a world class high-performing public service. Of course we know there are absolutely no evidence-based reasons, it is purely an ideological move borne of the desire to shift public services into the clutches of private contractors in order to cut costs.
Interestingly, this was confirmed recently in an article written by Richard Garside on the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies website:-
Transforming Rehabilitation, in an important sense, has little to do with rehabilitation and a lot to do with a particular view on how the government should manage the marketplace in public services.
Sadly that pretty much sums up our situation. For all the bollocks and rhetoric about TR being concerned with 'bringing down stubbornly high reoffending rates', which it won't of course, it's actually about 'managing the marketplace in public services'. It's about handing over the majority of our work to privateers and dodgy companies such as G4S, Serco, A4E and Interserve who have all proved to be adept at fiddling figures and cooking the books at public expense.
It also means money has to be saved through 'restructuring' and 'innovative ways of working'. So as we know from the London Unpaid Work privatisation with Serco it will inevitably be redundancies, increased workloads, unsafe practices and worse terms and conditions for all. It cannot be anything else because 'efficiencies' have to be made and every contractor whether Eddie Stobart - yes really - or a spun-out probation mutual will have to do the same in order that their bid is competitive.
It's extremely sad that things have ended up like this for us, but there doesn't seem to be any alternative and I think we have a wider public duty to resist these daft, dangerous and ill-thought-out plans by every means possible. Napo General Secretary Ian Lawrence sums it up on his latest blog yesterday:-
It's time to say 'NO' by saying 'YES'
Ballot material will be hitting your post boxes from tomorrow morning so I have no need to rehearse the plea that is contained in the statement urging you to take part and why it is vital that you do so. All I will add at this stage is that Napo would never ask you to take action of this kind unless we saw it as the only chance of defeating such a serious threat to your jobs and careers as the one that confronts you now.
Please vote 'YES' to both questions and ensure that you encourage your workplace Napo colleagues to do the same. A low turnout will be a massive boost for Grayling and company and I cannot believe that you want that to happen.