Avid readers both here and over on the Napo forum webpages will be aware that our very own tailgunner has been on an arduous mission and some might have become concerned due to the length of radio silence. I'm happy to report that he - I know we are making assumptions here - is alive and well and reports as follows:-
The letter sent to Trusts by Michael Spurr on Friday 22nd was directed primarily at the registration of local disputes by both Napo (and now UNISON) and the issue of local consultations. Napo has issued further advice to branches on this subject today.
The issue of location is indeed likely to be critical in the mid to long term. The estate will doubtless be rationalised as new owners decide to find cheaper accommodation and there will be tensions around co-location between the NPS and CRCs (and indeed other parties such as the police). More immediately, there are a number of Probation occupied premises where there will be a lease break/ end date in 2014. So decisions will need to be made here as regards whether leases can be extended. If not, new accommodation will need to be sought, but by whom? It seems unlikely that new accommodation with co-location would be found since this would tie new owners into potentially long leases. So where staff occupy buildings where there is an impending lease break/end, searching questions need to be asked.
The MoJ are stating clearly that all Probation staff will remain in the LGPS after transfer to either the NPS or a CRC. TR FAQ 36 (issued by the MoJ on 13th November) states that staff will remain in their current schemes post-transfer. That isn't quite correct. The current intention is that all staff will be transferred to the same Local Government Pension Scheme - currently this is likely to be the Manchester Scheme. So, the intention is that membership in an LGPS is secure for existing staff but this is not a 'done deal' yet and if it is not signed off in time, there is little likelihood that April 1st will be a date that is met for the split of the staff into the NPS and the CRCs. It is worth recalling that the sale of UPW in London took three attempts ( over several years) before it was successfully completed, and it was the pensions issue that scuppered the first two attempts at sale.
The issue of continuity of service remains a very real and ongoing concern which has not been resolved. As it stands, continuity of service is guaranteed for all staff, even if they move from one employer to another for a period of up to 9 months beyond the point of share transfer (or perhaps 6 months depending on which bit of the imposed documentation you read). This represents a real detriment to all existing staff and is in breach of the principles of COSOP. What has however now been clarified is that staff will not lose continuity if they move from one role to another with the same employer.
There remains a significant lack of clarity over what it will mean for staff to become civil servants within the NPS - how existing Civil Service policies etc may be applied. Despite repeated requests for consultation over this critical issue at national level, so far it has not materialised. Without this information, again, staff are not well placed to make informed decisions about their future employment.
(Filed at 2.27 BST)
Weather Report for Wednesday 27th November (Filed at 3.07 BST)
Napo NEC meets today to review the position in the campaign to oppose the TR Programme.
The emerging picture is that some Trusts have already begun sending out automatic assignment letters and Expression of Interest letters. More will be acting on the MoJ requirement this week and some more are waiting to see how things develop. As reported before, there is significant preparatory work that should be done before letters are sent out and some Trusts are sensibly doing this in consultation with unions locally. Interestingly, reports suggest that an early keen and compliant Trust sent out automatic assignment letters even before last weeks negotiations, on the 20th, had been concluded. Some of these letters were wrong and had to be withdrawn and re-issued as we understand it. Also, the same Trust sent out EoI letters to other staff with next to no information to assist staff in making informed decisions about their future careers.
It is interesting to note that in the draft National Agreement on Staff Transfer ( the one that did not get agreed at the NNC on the 20th for reasons recorded elsewhere) there was the following clause - "The EoI form will be accompanied by a list of relevant posts available; number of posts available; a list of likely changes to location in the short to mid term ( e.g. A lease break); whether Non Police Personnel Vetting applies to specific NPS posts; information on how it is envisaged the relevant role may change in the future and a statement of the sifting criteria to be applied." This clause does not appear in the documentation imposed by the MoJ on the 13th November. Whilst this documentation was very hurriedly prepared, resulting in a number of conflicting and erroneous statements, this omission was evidently intentional. The information suggested in the above clause would have to be made available by the MoJ to Trusts and it would appear that most of it is not available. This will make it very difficult (make that impossible) for staff to make informed decisions.
Long Range Forecast
What is clear from Michael Spurr's letter to Trusts on 13th November is that there is an expectation at the MoJ that on 1st April Probation staff will continue to do exactly the same work, same caseload, same duties etc as they were doing on 31st March. Currently it would appear that caseloads will not be re-allocated until July 2014. This all notwithstanding the fact that on 1st April, staff will work for different organisations with discrete responsibilities and lines of accountability. It is understood that this arrangement will be facilitated by a Service Level Agreement between the NPS and the 21 CRCs. Details of this have yet to emerge.
Trusts will probably continue to exist in some shape or form post April 1st, if only to deal with 'winding up the business'. Staff will be sitting at the same desks doing the same work. they will work for different organisations - but all still in the public sector. Probably, email addresses, letterheads, signage and security passes will have been changed and hopefully there will be systems in place to enable everyone to be paid.
There will be a critical date sometime in early January by when the MoJ will have to decide whether they have a 'system-go' situation enabling them to issue Trusts with termination notices on their contracts to provide Probation Services. If they can't, who knows what will happen.
The staff assignment process is a part of the Human Resources workstream. There are many other workstreams which will need to be system ready by 1st April in order to enable the MoJ to press the button and issue notices to Trusts in January. Many rivers yet to cross for the TR Programme. It isn't a done deal yet.