This is the latest advice received today by e-mail from Napo HQ and relates to the 'work-to-rule'
After the strike of 5th and 6th of November, the next part of our trade dispute is “working to contract”. We acknowledge that this is really hard to pin down in a service like ours because probation work is messy and complex at the best of times.
So why are we doing it? First and foremost, to keep the trade dispute open. More specific actions (short of strike action) will be announced as Transforming Rehabilitation unfolds but we can’t be specific about that until it happens. Second, because we all know that probation is under-staffed and under-resourced and that our goodwill often fills the gaps. Working to contract is a way of highlighting this and demonstrating what is at risk as we start to withdraw that good will.
We recognise that manager members are in a unique and difficult position as they cope with managing staff working to rule and trying to do this themselves. We have been asked for additional guidance and we hope the advice below is helpful.
The first thing to remember for all members is that we are on the same side - working to rule shouldn’t necessarily mean giving another Napo member a headache. Whenever possible, members in the line management relationship should collaborate and agree what work will not be completed. We want to avoid members feeling ambushed in any way. Ensure that you keep your own manager informed of the industrial action.
If your staff send you an email stating that they are working to rule and need help to prioritise, we suggest agreeing to discuss this in supervision and prioritise public safety and staff supervision. Enable staff to take TOIL whenever (because of public safety issues) they have had to work over their usual hours. By staff taking TOIL there may be a knock-on effect on allocation of court reports, attendance at training, delivery of programmes, sending apologies for meetings etc. Some work will have to be cancelled. However, a major thrust of our campaign is the risk to public safety so risk management should be prioritised.
If you receive a grievance, remember that although this may come to you as the line manager it is not aimed at you. Acknowledge it and pass it up the line management chain or to HR (depending on the provisions in your own local policy). Make sure you submit your own grievance too- this is part of collective action and provides you with vital legal protection.
It’s probably not a good idea for Napo HQ to issue specific “directions” in relations to working to contract because every office works differently- what may work in one area won’t work in another. There will have to be a lot of individual choices. However, what follows are some suggestions for the staff you manage and for your own work:
You could advise that staff keep strictly to the Practice Framework (often referred to as New National Standards) rather than do over and above in terms of OASys or other assessments. For example, a change in circumstances does not necessarily need a new OASys although it is acknowledged good practice. Instead, the practitioner should note the change and take any needed action. The same goes for reporting requirements. Enabling staff to take TOIL will expose gaps in understaffing - Court reports may have to be returned to Court and meetings may not be attended.
If staff are over-allocated cases (if a workload tool exists in your area) then formally write to your own line manager and ask for a response from the Chief Executive and ask that your concerns are escalated to NOMS. Managers acting together in this way will be effective.
If you are carrying vacancies in your office it will increase stress as others carry the burden of work. If there is no budget for cover, fill out an Accident and Incident form and use existing processes to highlight the issues. This is a worthwhile exercise as it provides good evidence which we may later rely on. Push all responsibilities up the line management chain to the very top.
Manager members do many different jobs and therefore we can’t give a comprehensive list of what you should not do. However, the same principles for those you manage should apply. Whichever management grade you occupy, you will have your own line manager and we advise that you work collaboratively, where possible; work your proper hours, take TOIL and agree what you don’t do. Remember that if you are under any pressure not to follow the industrial action, then you should seek advice and support from Napo.
We recommend that you prioritise public safety and staff supervision. You may need to discuss with your manager which meetings to prioritise. This will inevitably involve not attending some meetings. It is not an exact science but if you follow the guidance of escalating all problems upwards and being ready for the next steps of industrial action, you are playing a really important part in the campaign.
Above all, remember that this type of action is never perfect in the service we deliver. The action short of strike action will accelerate as we concentrate on protecting the public and not putting this at risk by getting distracted by TR. The message will be to the MoJ: “If you want to inject chaos and fragmentation into the Probation Service, we are not going to do it for you.”
Tom Rendon Ian Lawrence
NATIONAL CHAIR GENERAL SECRETARY