Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Latest From Napo 8

Given the momentous events this year and the continuing TR omnishambles we all find ourselves engaged with, I thought it a good idea to re-publish the latest blog from Napo General Secretary Ian Lawrence from yesterday:-


I am doubtful whether there has been a more action packed year in Napo's proud history but if so I stand to be corrected. Nevertheless, as we approach the end of 2013 we do so on a high note in terms of our campaign against Transforming Rehabilitation. 

Putting aside the last 12 months for a moment, let's just reflect on where we were this time last week, as the Napo negotiating team left the offices of the conciliation service ACAS after nearly 8 hours of some very difficult contemplations for the three unions and late talks with the PA and MoJ that were anything other than full of festive cheer. The possibility of us entering the winter holiday in good spirits was as fanciful as a visit from Santa Claus in daylight hours. 

By the end of the day we had insisted on being granted an urgent audience with Chris Grayling, which we were repeatedly told was going to be a waste of time, as the best offer from the employers on a Staff Transfer agreement had to be signed on the dotted line there and then. 

Fortunately, we decided not to blink first in the face of such a provocative ultimatum, reckoning that for there to be any chance of this wretchedly misconceived programme actually being implemented then the Secretary of State needed an orderly agreement. More importantly for us, we owed it to our members to secure all the protection that we could against the impact of privatisation if it comes to it.

As things turned out we saw Jeremy Wright last Thursday and in what was a short and sharp but ultimately constructive exchange, we walked away with an improved offer from the one that we had faced just a few days before. The extension of protected continuity of service from 9 months to seven years represents a climb down of major proportions in any analysis, and one that will be written into the commercial contracts that will be offered to bidders (more on them below).
That, among other reasons, is why Napo and Unison are putting the recommendation to accept the framework agreement to our respective Negotiating Committees. We will be issuing a detailed commentary on what it will mean to you if the National Negotiating Council give it the seal of approval, but meanwhile I want to thank all those involved in helping us to get this far. That includes Peter Heywood and John Woods from ACAS, Mark Ormerod, Norma Beechey and Malcolm Fearn from the PA and, at great risk to my grossly unfair reputation as an uncompromising attack dog, Amy Rees and Iain McIntosh from the MoJ, and yes while I am at it, the two Ministers for at last seeing some light amidst the gloom that they have helped to create. 

That said, all should of course be assured that Napo will be re-engaging in vigorous hostilities over the TR programme in 2014 come what may; and that the lifting of local JNC disputes makes not one jot of difference to our industrial action mandate, the ongoing action short of strike action, the myriad grievances submitted by members and the ferocious political campaign which we are waging. 

Famous names come a cropper 

The breakthrough on the staff transfer agreement was welcome but the announcement by Chris Grayling in the same week that G4S and Serco did not make the cut in the first qualifying round of the intended probation sell off, reminded me of the adage that one can wait ages for a bus to then see two of them arrive in tandem. 

The SoS's statement to Parliament makes it crystal clear that following investigations these companies are seriously under manners for tagging the dead and not delivering prisoners to the right place or at the right time, or hey - even at all. 

That we now have a very short, short list, of prospective purchasers who from what I can see know even less about probation than these people, speaks volumes about the farce that has been engineered. It's not even two bidders per CRC which aside from the issue of whether the privateers are fit for purpose or not, raises a serious question or two about the 'competitive' process. 

We will now adjust our approach accordingly as we take our reasoned arguments and briefings to the increasing number of influential politicians who are indicating their misgivings about this 'rehab revolution' which, interestingly, is now being described as an 'evolution' by its beleaguered architect.

Two big cheeses down then but no time to get complacent; there is still all to play for. 

2013 a year of achievement 

We have certainly crammed a lot in these past 12 months and as we use the winter holiday to 'recharge the batteries', we can afford to congratulate ourselves on our capacity to have stuck together in hard times. This includes the willingness to take strike action in defence of your jobs and futures and to launch a political and media campaign against the madness of privatisation that has resonated well beyond the expectations that a union of our size might reasonably have. Make no mistake, you have helped put probation on the map more than ever before and we have also orchestrated a House of Lords defeat for the government on its flawed Offender Rehabilitation Bill and are not done with that either. 

We have rebuilt the Napo team infrastructure and have a new General Secretary, Assistant General Secretary and a Press and Campaigns Official and your Officers and the Chivalry Road team have, just like you have, been working flat out at a time of great uncertainty. 

Take heart from where we are and what we have collectively achieved, and enjoy a great holiday alongside those whom you care most about. 


  1. The Communication and Workers Union earlier this month reached what is being regarded as landmark agreement with the Royal Mail following its privatisation. There will be legally-binding protections for employees: no zero-hours contracts, a nine percent increase in wages over three years, no more outsourcing and higher pension contributions by the employer. The CWU union leader was able to proclaim: “The legal protections for Royal Mail employees come hard on the heels of the privatisation of the company and are unprecedented in delivering the strongest protections for employees.” Royal Mail said: “Royal Mail said the agreement was believed to be the first of its kind in the UK, giving legal protections that benefit workers and the company.” This to me is what a good deal looks like and possibly a benchmark to refer to in relation to other negotiated outcomes and achievements.

  2. http://m.huffpost.com/uk/entry/4492743

    1. At the end of last week, the charity I lead, Prisoners Education Trust (PET), expressed its concern about Government plans to move all 18-20-year-olds from young offenders institutes (YOIs) to adult prisons. This was in response to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ)'s new consultation Transforming Management of Young Adults in Custody. Chiefly, we want to see more robust evidence to show that the proposals would lead to a reduction in reoffending or violence and increased safety in prisons.

      There are indisputably high levels of violence in YOIs but how can we be sure this problem doesn't just get transferred to adult prisons? In cases where young people have already been moved this year they have been involved in a high number of assaults and we have also heard about gang-related incidents occurring in classrooms, which then puts them off doing any education.

      If the decision to move all 18-year-olds to adult prisons has been made simply to save money then it will be at the very least counter productive and at worst dangerous. We have made clear that until there is a solid, evidence-based plan for how to deliver the higher level of support young people need, these plans should not go ahead.

      We were also surprised to see no mention of learning in the consultation proposals. Earlier this year we praised the Government for saying it wanted to put education at the heart of the youth estate, but more must be done to rehabilitate all prisoners effectively through learning and young adults in particular. If not, we will have a situation where once a prisoner turns 18 they will suddenly drop off the education radar.

      Although the MoJ says the changes will improve the safety of prisoners and staff, this is based on anecdote rather than fact as statistics show assaults involving young people in adult prisons are high. The plans have also been designed before the Government's own review of custodial violence that is due to report back early next year.

      The decision was announced last month even though the MoJ is yet to publish its plans for an earlier consultation on under 18s within the Youth Justice System, which PET responded to in April 2013.

      Among this group, 58% of young ex-prisoners reoffended within a year, compared with 46.9% of adults. Whilst 18 to 24-year-olds account for only one in 10 of the UK population, they account for a third of those sentenced to prison each year, a third of the probation service caseload and a third of the total economic and social costs of crime.

      Research shows that young adults have the largest potential to change their lives and "grow out of crime", but inappropriate interventions can halt this desistance process. In addition, this group are likely to require more one-to-one support in the adult estate where they may be more vulnerable due to their age and maturity to prevent violence or self-harm.