Friday, 18 October 2013

Spanners in the Works

So on the day that Napo passes a vote of 'no confidence' in Justice Minister Chris Grayling and votes to go on strike, he confirms that Serco and G4S will be allowed to bid for probation work. On a turnout of 46%, members voted 84.4% in favour of strike action but, says General Secretary Ian Lawrence, was not a decision taken lightly as reported here in the Independent:-

The union previously registered a trade dispute over Justice Secretary Chris Grayling's proposals to transfer most of the service to private firms such as G4S and Serco.
Ian Lawrence, Napo's general secretary, said: "We now have a mandate for industrial action that we shall be pursuing with vigour but as always Napo will be seeking to avoid this if possible by way of further negotiations with ministers."
If a strike goes ahead, it will be only the third time in its 101-year history that Napo will have taken such action.
Mr Lawrence said: "Napo does not take strike action lightly, but we strongly believe that decimating the award-winning public sector Probation Service and selling it off to the likes of G4S and Serco will result in increased re-offending rates, a lack of continuity in risk management, and will see the privateers making huge profits at the expense of victims, offenders and taxpayers.
"We want to raise public awareness of what these proposals will mean to the communities and put a halt to Grayling's plans until there has been a full review of his plans and a proper parliamentary debate."
Napo previously claimed negotiations with the Ministry of Justice over its Transforming Rehabilitation reforms had been "seriously compromised" as a result of the department's "interference" in the consultation on the proposals.

There's even more bad news piling up for Chris Grayling because Ian Lawrence also announced to delegates that a letter was in the post giving official notification of an application for Judicial Review of the whole Transforming Rehabilitation omnishambles. Add this to the news that apparently Derbyshire Probation Trust have declared that they have no intention of signing the contract variations demanded by MoJ/Noms, and there is increasing evidence to feel confident that the TR omnishambles can be defeated by lots of individual spanners being thrust into the works.

You have to hand it to Michael Spurr, Noms CEO, in having the bottle to turn up at the Napo AGM and try to defend the indefensible, and without notes. The longer he spoke and the more questions he fielded from the floor, the less convincing he sounded. In particular he had no convincing argument for the hasty replacement of Mike Maiden without any selection process.

Basically his answer was he did it because he could. It also adds further fuel to the discussion surrounding the real reason for Mr Maiden's departure. As has been noted, there was no fulsome praise for his work in being a significant architect of the new Service in the official MoJ press release, thus fuelling speculation that in reality there was a major disagreement. 

Mr Spurr was described as a decent chap by Steve Gillan, General Secretary of the Prison Officers Association, and when challenged to basically say how he slept at night introducing the TR proposals, he replied that there "were certain things he would not do". To be honest, I'm intrigued to know what those are exactly in the context of TR.    

Due to internet difficulties, this is being written in a very noisy branch of a well-known pub chain and I need to go to the bar. More tomorrow.   


  1. excellent work Sir - May I be bold enough to remind readers that whilst Jim is blogging at the speed of light there will still be pertinent comments on previous blogs as well, so feel free to review at your leisure.

  2. Hello,
    I asked the question of Spurr about whether the replacement of Maiden without selection showed us what we could expect in future in terms of accountability and transparency. You're right - his answer was essentially "I had the power to do that so I did it." I guess that did sort of answer my question.

    Yes, fair play to him for coming when he knew he'd get a rough ride, but one of the things that concerned me was that he did seem to genuinely believe that TR was motivated by a desire to reduce reoffending. That can't be healthy. His comments about how he could participate in TR in all conscience reminded me of that Meatloaf track - he would do anything for TR, but he won't do that....

    It's been quite a day at AGM, and I really liked this summary of it! Thanks Jim.

    1. Straight after the session I went up to Michael Spurr, thanked him for for coming and asked him if he would give me his personal assurance that he would report the strength of feeling demonstrated at Conference today back to the Minister. He replied he felt sure ministers were aware, so I reiterated 'don't just say it was a bit tricky and the questions were tough but really tell him how we feel' and he said he would. Whether he does or not, is up to him. I couldn't say anything else -too angry and choked - possibly a daft thing to have done at this stage, but I did it anyway.

    2. Deb it was an excellent thing to do - well done - thank you.

      I did something similar with a former Probation Head of Probation at the Home Office - it changed nothing but that bloke knew what I thought about the way the spirit of probation was diminished by the 1991 Criminal Justice Act.

      Having heard Wright on BBC 5 live radio after 1pm - I am sure he is a very, very effective political operator and doubt Grayling and Cameron are getting messages from him about how, if they persist - TR will, eventually somehow or other blow up in their faces.

      Andrew Hatton

    3. Thanks, both.

  3. Excellent reportage Jim - I am sure i will be shot down with this comment but I do have a grudging respect for anyone who speaks at NAPO AGM from the Government or NOMS , after all it is the "lions den", I have see one of the Eagle sisters talk at Scarborough and Crispin liked it so much he came back for more if I recall correctly, anyhow , not the message we want but at least he had the where with all to turn up and field questions.
    Keep up the good work , I notice you have a feed of info from your willing researchers and I am sure NAPO delegates will have plenty to say!! Rest easy and have a beer for us all.

    1. Thanks for all the contributions everyone - it's feedback, comments and snippets of info via e-mail that make the blog - over 2,300 hits yesterday.

      I'm afraid that lack of time, too much imbibing and great craic last night, together with internet problems, all conspire to mean no post this morning - but normal service will resume very soon.

      Cheers from Llandudno,


    2. Jim, As you return from conference it will be great to get your thoughts on the mood of the conference and HOW this can be conveyed to the rest of the membership....I have a slight , no great worry that the VOTE was on <50% turnout and with the potential split upon us , how can those NOT attending conference be mobilised to FIGHT.
      Apologies for the capital letters(!) but we have to mobilise all the staff and they can mobilise their contacts , MPS, LORDS, PCCs and others to continue to put pressure on this OMNISHAMBLES to fail.....I heard someone say recently that "the best we can hope for is a split with no privatisation" that would still be disastrous, so ALL the staff need to become bellligerent , question every letter, request and task to ensure the path is slow and tortuous.
      It is clear from the conference and already known by regular contributors that ;
      1. Probation has lots of friends willing to speak on our behalf .
      2. WE have an immense number of contacts in our local communities - tell them this is crap , it won't work
      3.The truth about future employers is flooding out - they are con artists, they are poor businesses , they lie, they decieve, they rob and steal PUBLIC money in the name of EFFICIENCY
      4. Chris Grayling is driven by self interest - is willing to sacrafice others such as Mike Maiden to ensure HIS bidding is done. Is politically driven and has an ideology shared with chums in the cabinet but few others.
      5.That we have ebbed and flowed in this journey between elation and disappointment -

      So Jim, do you get the feeling that the battle can STILL be won after a couple of days amongst like minded people in LLandudno?

    3. I'm home at last, drink in hand and have internet that works. You put your finger on the key issue - with a 46% turnout, how can the doubters be persuaded?

      Napo does not have a brilliant track record with industrial action of any sort, but this is different and I believe that message is getting through bit by bit.

      NPS is no 'safe haven' for PO's and there's no 'lucrative' redundancy deals on offer. That message hasn't got through yet, but it's something I intend highlighting.

      Of course conferences are a bit self-indulgent, but I really got the feeling that people were re-energised by it - I know I was - and hence lote of people are heading off home ready to pass that message on.

      I, and this blog, are in optimistic mode and I really do think the whole thing can be stopped by a multitude of spanners being thrust in the works, but that must mean some concerted industrial action I think, in order to demonstrate a tipping point has been reached and that we really do mean business.

      Watch this space for encouragement and I hope both this and other platforms will continue to carry lots of shared information in order to help the campaign.

  4. in response to anon@17:57, here's some historical serco stuff.

    A young man, Adam Rickwood, died in a custody environment run by Serco. A West Midlands group opposed to privatising policing in their area raised some important questions. The answers are stunning, especially the aspect I have starred towards the end.

    West Midlands against Policing for Profit asked West Midlands Police Authority:

    The inquest jury into the death of Adam Rickwood, the youngest person to die in custody in Britain, found that that the manhandling of 14-year-old Adam Rickwood and a “distraction” blow to his nose were “more than minimally” relevant to his suicide six hours later at Hassockfield secure training centre, County Durham, in August 2004. Hassockfield secure training centre is run by Serco.

    On 27 January 2011 the jury in the second Adam Rickwood inquest made the following findings of fact as part of its narrative verdict:

    “Before and at the time of Adam’s death, Physical control in care was regularly used at Hassockfield in circumstances not permitted by the contract between the Home Office and Serco, the STC Rules and the Director’s Rules.

    Before and at the time of Adam’s death, [there was] a serious system failure in relation to the use of PCC at Hassockfield, giving rise to an unlawful regime.”

    1. Did Serco declare this case when they answered the question at Pre-Qualification stage as to whether the company had been found guilty of “committing any acts of grave misconduct in the course of their business and profession?”

    2. If Serco didn’t advise West Midlands Police Authority of this finding of facts that an institution that it was running was found to be operating an unlawful regime of physical control against young people in its custody what action is the Police Authority proposing to take in regard to this ?

    West Midlands Police Authority answered

    The Authority’s response is:

    Question 1 – No.

    Question 2 – In undertaking the procurement process for business partnering the Authority is subject to EU law and the requirements of the Public Contracts Regulations. The Authority is under a duty to treat bidders equally. The regulations provide for mandatory grounds which require the exclusion of a bidder in cases such as convictions for bribery. There are discretionary grounds to exclude a bidder where there has been grave misconduct in the course of a business or profession or where there is a criminal conviction relating to a business or profession. *** It is not considered that the case referred to in your question constitutes grave misconduct such as would justify excluding Serco from bidding and no action is proposed***

    So in a nutshell, we have the bare bones of all of this ideological bollox laid bare

    * If there was evidence of bribery - immediate disqualification.

    * Kill a child within an unlawful regime - exemptions apply so don't even bother disclosing it

    The true value of the world according to Grayling & his lickspittles.

    No wonder he's been so anxious about getting the full story surrounding the tens of millions of pounds illicitly trousered by G4S & Serco. If there was evidence of bribery, they would have to be excluded. If its simply corporate greed and over-exuberant beancounters, no worries mate.


    Supervision by mobile app could be the way forward perhaps?

  6. Thought we ought to share the love - couldn't leave out Sodexo. BBC news website reported this:

    Up to 200 jobs are to go at a Northumberland prison which is about to be privatised.

    HMP Northumberland in Acklington, which houses more than 1,300 male prisoners, will be managed by Sodexo Justice Services from December.

    The company said it had begun talks with union officials about reducing the site's current workforce of 580.

    The Prison Officer's Association (POA) accused the firm of "putting profit before public safety".

    Sodexo, which already operates one prison in Scotland and three in England, was awarded a 15-year contract worth about £250m to manage HMP Northumberland earlier this year.

    The National Offender Management Service said Sodexo had produced a "compelling bid" to run the prison, formed after the merger of Castington and Acklington jails.

    In a statement, the company said: "We are currently in consultation with the Ministry of Justice and the recognised unions regarding employment arrangements at HMP Northumberland.

    "We have shared our proposed reduction in staffing numbers. We aim to achieve this reduction by voluntary means if possible.

    "Formal consultation with employees will commence after 1 December 2013 when HMP Northumberland employees transfer to Sodexo Justice Services."

    A spokesman for the POA said: "The announcement that 200 jobs will go at HMP Northumberland will place private profit before public safety.

    "We insist that Sodexo now provide safe systems of work, risk assessments and staff profiles to ensure that HMP Northumberland is safe, secure and decent for staff, prisoners and the public.

    "The POA will not tolerate unsafe working practices and unsupervised prisoners.

    "The warehousing of prisoners will not provide the promised rehabilitation revolution."

    Sodexo Justice Services is part of the French multinational Sodexo Group, which provides services including catering, cleaning and security."

  7. In 2011 the following was being reported about Sodexo by civil rights groups:

    Two recent reports – "A Strange Case" by Human Rights Watch and "Voices for Change" by TransAfrica Forum – examine violations of workers’ basic civil and human rights at several global branches of Sodexo, a France-based food distribution company.

    The TransAfrica Forum report recounts abuses described by Sodexo workers in the United States, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Guinea, and Morocco. The report states that Sodexo offers workers the lowest wages possible, and then deprives them of desperately needed income by allegedly failing to pay them for all the hours they work, denying overtime pay, and docking their pay for meals they don't eat and breaks they don't take. Human Rights Watch also found that Sodexo had forced its workers into "captive audience" meetings to hear anti-union lectures, and fired workers for union activity.

    "The civil and human rights coalition is committed to improving working conditions for all," said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. "Sixty years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, there is still a very long way to go, particularly when we find that government-contracted global corporations can still thwart the basic right of human dignity. Sodexo and its shareholders have a chance to make this right at their board meeting. We urge them to rise to the occasion."

    Numerous universities around the world have taken action, campaigning for Sodexo to be removed as the campus catering supplier because of their appalling human rights record.

    A recent campaign in Ohio State: In early March Gary Snell, a Sodexo employee at Crew Stadium, became sick with Whooping Cough, a highly contagious sickness. Knowing that it was unsafe to work around food while sick with a contagious illness, Gary did the right thing and called in sick. Sodexo responded by firing Gary, ignoring his more than five years of dedicated service to the company.

    Gary was targeted by Sodexo for openly supporting his fellow co-workers in forming a union. Sodexo, although the 21st largest employer in the world with profits over one billion annually, pays poverty wages to their employees.

  8. Thank you for your inspiring and informative work. Hopefully other Trusts will follow Derbyshire's lead, and that the Ballot and Napo's application for a Judicial Review will help towards exposing the folly of TR, before it causes much more needless waste of taxpayers money.

  9. As alluded to in earlier blogs, G4S had advertised for Head Of Ops - Rehabilitation . . .at £85k pa . . .that simply doesn't happen unless you've been given the nod that a slice of the CRC pie will be coming your way.
    I'm slightly confused as to what might happen in Oct '14 (assuming Grayling manages to stick to timetable), to the 21 newly appointed CEO's of the CRC's. As i see it, if the likes of G4S / Serco complete on the 'penny transfer' of rehabilitative services and become new owners (or caretakers for 7 yrs) then surely they will want to appoint their own CEO's !.So unless the newly appointed CEO's have some clause in their contract that says they will automatically remain in post after October then they will have essentially accepted a job that might only last for 6 mnths !. . . . or have I misunderstood?