Thursday, 14 November 2013

Radio Silence

Well, the work-to-rule called for by Napo has arrived, but sadly the guidance has not. This is leading to widespread dismay and consternation amongst the ranks that could so easily be avoided by a simple explanation on the website. Napo, you really do need some serious advice in communication skills and media usage in the modern age.

Unofficially we learn that negotiations between the employers, MoJ and unions have stalled once again, but silence descends like a cold damp blanket. There's a lonely tweet from Russell Webster about a possible item today concerning Serco and the London Community Payback disaster on Radio5live and Newsnight - but, you guessed it - silence.....maybe he will clarify? 

In the absence of any official news, fortunately tailgunner managed to get this off before contact was lost at 23:59 last night:-

It is feared that local storms may break out by the end of the week and during the early part of next week. Practical advice is given below as to how these might be avoided.

Negotiations have taken place throughout the day (as reported in Branch Advice BR148/13 - available from Branch Chairs and Secretaries. We are grateful to Chivalry Road for this). Progress has been made with some written clarification of position being provided by MoJ. Further written communication from MoJ is anticipated and a meeting of the National Negotiating Council is scheduled for Wednesday 20th November when the draft National Staff Transfer Framework will again be on the agenda with some anticipation that it might be ratified. 

However, in the meanwhile, NOMS have tonight issued a requirement of Trusts that they "begin the process of implementation for staff assignment and transfer...." Documentation has been issued to assist with this process. This has doubtless been done at the behest of the Secretary of State.

This documentation (which is not available for this report) apparently includes the National Framework for Staff Transfer ( thought to be the Staff Assignment Process lifted from the draft National Agreement). It is believed that this "Framework" is in fact a previous version of the Staff Assignment Process - I.e. Not the one currently agreed by the NNC. It may well be that this needs checking. Also attached are Guidance Notes - thought to be based on a document taken from the NNC. This could also be problematical since the document is incomplete. There are then a range of supporting documents prepared, it is understood, by the People Transition Service at NOMS including rather attractive glossy PowerPoint presentations.

Trusts are told to "work through how to do this both internally and through engagement with the Programme transition teams" (lots of people at NOMS).

If Trusts start the staff split - by sending out either letters of automatic assignment or Expression of Interest letters, then advice on what to do can be found in BR148/13. 
It is very much to be hoped that Trusts do not start to do this before the draft Agreement is once more before the NNC next Wednesday. It is very much to be hoped that restraint and good sense prevail and that Trusts stick to the essential preliminary work which really needs to be done before any actual assignment of staff commences.

1. The documentation should be studied carefully and shared with the unions locally.
2. There will be questions with regard to the "Framework" ( e.g. Is it the final version?) and the guidance.
3. Consultation meetings with the unions should be arranged, perhaps before next Wednesday to consider the documentation and seek initial points of clarification, and after Wednesday to review the position with regard to the Agreement - has it been ratified and what are the implications etc. 
4. The supporting documentation should include an Equality Analysis tool ( template) . This is an MoJ document which explicitly states that the publication of this analysis is a legal requirement - see back page. Furthermore the National agreement states that this analysis should be carried out, published and consulted upon prior to implementation. Something else to consult upon before or after next Wednesday.

It is believed that the above constitute quite proper preliminary steps to be undertaken in compliance with the requirement placed upon trusts. This preparatory work is a bit like getting properly dressed before going out in a storm - it can prevent one from getting all wet and bedraggled.

Finally, today is the deadline for PQQ's and the excitement is clearly getting to Debbie Ryan, Director of Rehabilitation and Resettlement at G4S who tweets:-

An Ode to TR
'Twas the night before deadline, And all through the sector We are fast PDF'ing And counting the letters''

Encouraged by an ACO from Plymouth who clearly doesn't have enough to do

Twas the night before deadline And all through the land Concern is expressed At what Grayling has planned

Debbie heads for the pub

'Twas the night before deadline With PQQs done Tis time for the pub, I'll get the first one ....

It goes on, but to be honest it would just confirm a lot of my prejudices about the participants and it's probably best to draw a veil over it.  


  1. To allay confusion please edit in view of my Twitter exchange with Victoria Derbyshire - who is listed as tonight's newsnight presenter.

    It is not due to cover Probation - she mentioned fact that she covered it last week.

    I will be happy for this to be deleted if blog is edited!

    1. Not convinced Andrew - what made Russell Webster so specific in his tweet? Let me know if you find out.



  2. He has blocked me and took part of his You Tube enterprise down briefly after I posted some constructive remarks in response to the A4E's 'informed' (not) comments about the whole TR farce!

    I have left posts in place in Napo forum for now.

    Victoria Derbyshire's response that refers to last week is enough to convince me - though such is the confusion seeping from the national negotiations I consider it informative that no national media is reporting progress.

    If there were negotiations going on about changes in the management of Gillingham Football club we would get daily updates but as what happens to all of probation throughout two countries is of no interest until someone dies or is raped - we have to be grateful we can talk amongst ourselves via the internet.

    Andrew Hatton

  3. I'm a real hater of Serco and G4S, I dig for hours just to get a bit of info on either. I can't find a thing about their London community payback contract in the last few days.
    But Serco do have a troubled week ahead as the times and gardian indicate today.

  4. I think work-to-rule will not advance the cause one iota. There isn't sufficient solidarity to make it effective. And anyway work-to-rule is a throwback tactic to an earlier industrial era. They tried it initially at Grangemouth and the unions ended up being humiliated. An overtime ban in probation, a go-slow – it's fantasy.

    The Napo strike was a token and the fact that Unison members were not part of it was risible. The strike produced some nice photos though. Napo nationally has failed for years to build and nurture – and support - organisation at a local level. It remains my view that Napo's main objective is to maintain its subscription base – whether in the private or public sector. After all Napo's salaried staff need to secure their futures. But Napo is not alone amongst the unions. All the unions are ineffective and have been for many years. Look at how the old powerhouses police, prison officers, and fire-fighters have been outmanoeuvred. When we have high unemployment, workers stuck on part-time contracts or – worse – on zero hours contracts, the chorus of being lucky to have a job not only rings true - it is true.

    Probation as we know it is in its endgame. The business-focused Trusts are for the chop, despite all their draconian actions against their own workforces, who they helped to impoverish, in their drive to be lean and mean. I feel no sadness at their demise, because they aped the private sector anyway. They destroyed the public ethos in probation. We worry about terms and conditions suffering in the private sector, as though Trusts presided over Shanghai-La. Wages have been depressed for years – real wages today are at 2003 levels – though the post of Napo's general secretary has fared better. Plus ca change.


    2. Serco, accused of overcharging the British government, took a raft of charges and warned of lower 2014 profits on Thursday as its problems in Britain and Australia hit margins.

      The firm said its operating margin in 2013 would be slightly lower than the 6.4% a year earlier and that this would lead to 2014 profits being slightly lower than in 2013.

      "Awful statement and we expect yet further weakness," Liberum analyst Joe Brent said.

      The news caps a tumultuous six months for the firm in which it has become the subject of multiple investigations, its chief executive has quit and it has lost around a fifth of its market value.

      Serco, along with rival G4S, is being investigated by Britain's Serious Fraud Office for overcharging the government on an electronic tagging contract. Serco has said it will repay any amount due on the tagging contract, which it said it is expecting to be in the low tens of millions.

      It has also been ordered to demonstrate serious corporate change to its biggest customer, the British government, as a result of further problems on a prisoner escort deal discovered earlier this year.

      "The UK government audits and reviews are ongoing and we remain firmly committed to rebuilding the confidence of our UK government customer," acting chief executive Ed Casey said.

      On Thursday it identified one-off costs and accounting charges of up to £15m within the two problem contracts. External adviser and related costs since July have been around £12m, the firm said.

      Serco, which is currently unable to win British government work until it gets the all-clear from a review of its biggest contracts, said it would cut around 400 jobs in its UK and business process outsourcing operations.

  5. Serco UK defence contracts worth £4bn

    By Kiran Stacey and Gill PlimmerSerco has over £4bn worth of contracts with the Ministry of Defence, according to figures seen by the Financial Times, showing how enmeshed the troubled outsourcing group is with its government paymasters.Information released by the MoD shows Serco’s deep ties with the defence department despite it being at the centre of seven separate investigations into the way it runs government contracts.The risk posed by these probes is considered so serious that analysts expect the group to warn of a gloomy profits outlook when it updates the markets on Thursday.Ministers have put new contracts to Serco on hold while the group is investigated over a series of scandals, including a Serious Fraud Office inquiry into allegations it overcharged taxpayers for tagging offenders.However, the MoD figures show how hard it would be for Whitehall to disentangle itself from Serco given the group’s integral role in providing government services – particularly to the defence department.Its contracts range from training RAF pilots to running the Aldermaston facility where the UK builds its nuclear weapons.Kevan Jones, Labour’s shadow defence minister, said: “There are huge questions about whether it is appropriate for a company facing such serious allegations to be considered for this crucial role in protecting the nation’s security interests.“The number and value of contracts between Serco and the MoD highlights the importance of the Serious Fraud Office’s investigation.”By far the biggest contract is the joint-venture with Jacobs Engineering and Lockheed Martin to run the nuclear weapons plant near Aldermaston in Berkshire.That partnership is worth £2.8bn to Serco over the life of the contract – and guarantees it a place in one of the most sensitive areas of government until 2024 regardless of the SFO inquiry.Serco also helps train pilots at RAF Cranwell in Lincolnshire, for which it will earn £163m between now and next March, and is building new science and technology laboratories for the MoD, at a cost of £450m.

    1. Only half the article above. Went back to get other half and hit paywall?? Sorry

    2. Can we have the link or Journal please? can anyone help with the missing bit?




  6. "Debbie Does Deadlines" - there's film in there somewhere.

  7. Is the "radio silence" hitting the blog too? Where is everyone? Have you all been abolished this afternoon??!!!

  8. I agree with the earlier comment about the harm done to our profession by the Trusts, we have been seriously exploited and left defenceless by their actions. Our Chief Exec has treated the staff as his minions, claiming to be their saviour with the CRC when he has done NOTHING to protect us or to keep us in the public sector. He has behaved appallingly to the unions. And our Board ? Deafening silence except the great self publicist that is our Chair. Bitter? You bloody bet I am.

  9. Good to see netnipper back, I missed you!

  10. Has anyone seen any work to rule guidance yet? If so can it be shared on this forum please.

  11. Hi Bobby Joe,

    I have now seen the work to rule guidance, but I thought everybody would have it today, so I did not bring it home with me. Sorry. Basically it said that we should do our contracted hours and no more, and advised us to complete a log of hours worked.

    We did have this Transforming Rehabilitation Briefing issued by South Yorkshire Probation Trust today to all staff:

    “Staff Transfer Arrangements.
    Despite significant efforts and agreement on a range of substantive issues, the PA and unions were unable agree full endorsement of the National Framework for Staff Transfer and associated guidance on Monday 11th November

    I need to inform you that Trusts have now been instructed verbally and in writing to begin the process of implementation for staff assignment and transfer using the documents which have been provided this morning from the TRP team.

    These documents have been agreed by the programme and NOMS and include:
    The National Framework for Staff Transfer; Guidance notes on the National Framework; A range of supporting documents for use by Trust management teams and HR professionals in briefing staff. The documents are based on the principles agreed by NNC and SCCOG.

    We will review the documentation before meeting with the TU’s tomorrow morning to discuss the process. Further information will be provided following that meeting.

    Communication. We recognise that this is a particularly difficult time for everyone in the Trust and my commitment is to keep you as informed as possible about all aspects of the transition process. I will be coming out to do some more face to face briefings. And don’t forget the confidential CE Q and A mailbox, and the CE ‘phone-ins’. The next Chief Executive ‘phone-in’ is Friday 15th November at 4.00pm”

    I was told by a colleague that this issue was sent out by mistake as management had got their wires crossed, but we have had no official confirmation of this yet.

    Personally, I am pleased with the Strike as it gives us added voice, and if together we shout loud enough the tide of TR could change. Anyway, this evening it was great being home earlier in time for the News. As soon as my hours were done I wrote on the work board “working to rule. Back Friday Am” Probation as somebody has said may be in it’s endgame, and TR a done deal, but the way I see it was a mistake to sell off gas, electric, mail etc and now the government wants to sell off its responsibility in dealing with Crime, to dodgy corporations.

  12. Thanks but I have checked BR148 on the NAPO website which says that guidance is attached to it.....except that it isn't so I am none the wiser other than the very general stick to your hours advice. I'm not back in work until Monday & would value having the info to prepare myself.

  13. As part of the work to rule we should refuse to engage with SEEDS which is putting increasing the pressure on already stressed colleagues

  14. Initial Guidance on Action Short of Strike Action

    As the Government is still pressing ahead with its dangerous Transforming Rehabilitation Plans, Napo will be instigating its action short of strike action. Following a hugely successful 24 hour strike earlier this month Napo has served notice on the employers that we will be taking further industrial action in the form of action short of strike which will commence on the 14th November 2013.

    Action short of strike action is a key part of our campaign. To kick start our action we are, at this time, asking all members working in the probation service in England and Wales to work their contracted hours and no more. However, this action is much more than a work to rule. The flexibility and goodwill of members, beyond their contractual obligations, which the employers have relied upon for so many years, will also be withdrawn during the duration of the dispute. Over the course of the dispute Napo will be incrementally adding to the types of action we will be asking members to participate in, and further advice will be sent out accordingly.

    Please remember when working your contracted hours you will not have any money deducted as you are fulfilling your contractual obligations.

    Why Action Short of Strike?

    Napo is embarking upon action short of strike action to ensure maximum disruption to the Governments plans for the privatisation of the Probation Service in England and Wales. This will demonstrate that the probation service operates on the goodwill of people to keep things going. This guidance details what action we are asking members to take at this time, it is only the start of action short of strike action. Further action will be notified to members in future circulars.

    What we are asking members to do:

    Work your hours and no more

    Do not work longer than your contracted hours for the duration of the action i.e. 37 hours per week. You may work flexibly within your weekly hours and flexi-hours arrangements where these exist (providing you are on a contract that allows flexible working arrangements).

    You must keep a record of the hours you have worked each day and make sure that you are completing timesheets to demonstrate that you have worked your contracted hours.

    1. How do I know what are my contracted hours?
      Most members in the Probation Service in England and Wales will be working 37 hours per week or 148 hours in every four weeks for probation officer grades. To find out your contracted hours please refer to your contract of employment.

      What to do when you have completed your hours.
      It is important that you should perform all your normal duties, if you cannot get them done in your contractual hours you should inform management that you have too much work for a normal working week and ask them for a formal written response setting out how they intend to address the overload.

      The work to rule does not mean that duties should not be done – it is simply a question of when to do them, and not exceeding the maximum hours stipulated in your contract. If a particular task must be completed by a specific deadline in that week, you should complete the task. However, if this is not the case, you will not be acting in breach of your contract if you stop working and resume the uncompleted tasks the following week. Members are asked to use their professional judgement when completing tasks.

      A model letter (appendix 1) is attached which members can use to give to their line manager asking what tasks should be prioritised in order that you do not go over your contracted hours.

      For members with line management responsibility, you will receive these letters from your staff. Our advice is for you to assist in prioritisation of work and send a similar letter to your line manager. We are all in the same boat and the idea is to escalate excess work all the way up the line to senior management and then NOMS.

      Will I have pay deducted for working my contracted hours?
      No, as you are working to your contract you will not have any pay deducted for following this action.

      Can I be disciplined for working my contracted hours?
      Remember, it is not the intention of this action to see members subject to disciplinary action. Your employer should not threaten you with any kind of punitive action for working your contracted hours. This action is perfectly legal, if you are put under undue pressure or coercion by your employer to withdraw from the action, you should ask the manager concerned to put their instructions in writing and inform your Napo rep immediately. If you need support or advice contact your local representative.

      What about Non Members?
      If you are a non-member or know of non-members that wish to take part in the action, we strongly advise they must join Napo before doing so. Advise them to complete an application form and send it to the Branch Membership Secretary.

    2. Appendix 1

      To whom it may concern,

      As you will be aware, Napo has served notice to Trusts that its members will be taking action short of strike from 14th November 2013. This action includes working to contracted hours. As a member of Napo I am actively participating in this campaign. My contracted hours are ..... per week / .... per month.

      I attach a copy of my timesheet which illustrates that I have fulfilled my contractual hours for this period. I have outstanding pieces of work that must be completed by ...... As my line manager please can you advise me how best to prioritise my workload whilst still adhering to my contracted hours.


  15. WTR will put already vulnerable staff in a risky situation. All of our tasks have nominal deadline, so we are basically being to carry on as normal without using putting in extra hours. Just goes to show Unions have no real clout these days. I would concentrate on ensuring that OM roles are treated as professional roles with minimum qualifications and a powerful professional body. That should ensure that current PSO salaries are maintained. A whistle blowing policy for CRC's should also be demanded.


    1. Documents discovered during an office clear-out have provided an insight into the way the Probation Service was run 50 years ago.

      Eight bound volumes of minutes taken at meetings held by the North East London Probation Sub-Committee were uncovered by assistant chief probation officer, Donna Charles Vincent, at the London Probation Trust in Clements Road, Ilford.

      Dating back to 1965, the records detail how the service, which is still responsible for overseeing the rehabilitation of offenders in Waltham Forest and Redbridge, had problems attracting trained staff.

      Also despite striving to be seen as an “enlightened employing body”, the papers show the work of “lady probation officers” was limited to 45 cases, while men were seen as capable of handling 50.

      On June 29 1965, the committee heard that the trust’s office in Walthamstow did not comply with regulations.
      The minutes read: “There is overcrowding in the office used by clerical staff, there is no thermometer provided and a hole exists in the linoleum of an upstairs passageway.”
      One debate on May 5 1966 discussed the rates of probation officers’ allowances for working overtime.

      The committee meeting decided £1.80 could be spared per person for tea if they were working until 6.30pm and £5.00 for dinner if working until 8.30pm.

      A spokesman for the trust said larger issues which directly affect offenders and staff are now discussed by the committee.

      He said: “The criminal justice system is very different now and has made some major advancement, so it is interesting to look back and see how it used to be run.

      “With methods such as electronic tagging and more proactive programs to address offenders’ behaviour the system has been modernized.
      “With methods such as electronic tagging and more proactive programs to address offenders’ behaviour the system has been modernized.
      “Things like drug misuse would not have been so much of a problem so issues such as a new bin would have made more of an appearance at committee meetings.”

      Donna Charles Vincent, who made the discovery during an office clean out, said: “It’s amazing to be able to look at what the probation service was like then, compared to the modern service it is today.”