Sunday, 2 March 2014

London Unpaid Work

We all knew that the London Unpaid Work contract with Serco would be a trailblazer for TR and a flagship project for the MoJ. We also now know it's been a failure on many levels, not least in terms of delivering the savings hoped-for by the MoJ and the profits planned-for by Serco. They wanted a way out as soon as possible and it will now be rolled-up in the overall TR bidding process for London, which incidentally has only three bidders. 

Anyway, Napo have recently produced the following circular on the subject and I thought it would be a good idea to publish it along with the original Pat Waterman/Sarah Friday article referred to in order to refresh our memories:-

  • Branch Chairs, Secretaries, Vice-Chairs & Convenors
  • Family Court reps for info
  • Officers & Staff for info
25th February 2014

Dear Colleague,

Termination of Serco’s Community Payback (CP) contract in London

On the 6th February The Secretary of State announced to Parliament that he intended to terminate Serco’s Community Payback London contract – originally due to run until the autumn of 2016 - by the end of 2014.  The 129 full time equivalent staff will transfer into the London CRC (Community Rehabilitation Company). The MoJ claim that this is so that London CP will fit in with the national Transforming Rehabilitation programme. It seems that the MoJ wanted to downplay the news of the end of the contract, as it was sneaked out in the footnote of a MoJ announcement.

Detailed arrangements for the transfer are still to be confirmed but we understand that this transfer will be protected by TUPE (The Transfer of Undertaking [Protection of Employment] Regulations), it is not a redundancy situation and the possible likely date for the transfer is November 2014.

This is a difficult and uncertain time for our members working on the Serco contact and we will be working with the Napo Greater London branch to ensure these members receive the best possible representation and to make sure that the move into the CRC goes smoothly. 

As this this the first section of ‘core’ probation work to be privatised what happens on this contract is of significant interest to all Napo members, particularly in light of the Transforming Rehabilitation agenda, and as the London CP contract is now coming to an end it is useful to reflect on Napo’s previous actions as regards this contract:
  • In March 2013 Napo wrote to Michael Spurr following Chris Graylings statement to the Justice Select committee that the Serco contract has produced savings of 40% since its commencement. We asked for a breakdown of how this figure was arrived at, and for a costing of work carried out prior to the transfer on legal and consultancy advice and the time spent by NOMS and LPT staff in drawing up the bid.  Michael Spurr’s reply was that the 40% figure was a re-working of the often repeated MoJ claim that the contract was to  save  the tax payer £25 million (37%) over the four year contract, and that he could not reply to our questions re costing queries due to ‘commercial confidentiality’. 

  • In the May/June 2013 edition of Napo News, Pat Waterman Greater London branch chair and I co-authored an article: ‘Lessons learnt from the part privatisation of London Community Payback’ in which we highlighted the scale of job losses. Pat wrote: “Over 300 LPT staff  were transferred to Serco on 30 October. However, no sooner was the ink dry on the trade union recognition agreement when Serco announced its plans to make 99 redundancies by way of a severance scheme”.  I wrote: “The scale of the job losses arising from the privatisation of London CP is one of the most devastating things about it, with nearly 200 jobs being cut from a pre-privatisation total of around 550 (including about 100 casuals)”.
In addition to the above job cuts in June 2013 Serco made a subsequent round of 10 redundancies – this time to managerial grades (senior and field managers).
  • In November 2013 following work done locally and centrally, Napo contributed to a BBC2 Newsnight feature in which whistle-blowers told the programme of serious failings in the contract – that community service projects were not properly supervised and there were inaccuracies in reporting cases of offenders not attending such schemes. Tom Rendon, Napo National chair said "Whatever the quality of the bids, the cheapest would always win. Serco and London Probation we think came in the cheapest and now the cracks are really starting to show".
  • In December 2013 Ian Lawrence, Napo General Secretary commented on the Serco decision to withdraw from the MoJ competition to be primary provider of probation services, due to the investigation by the Serious Fraud Office into significant ‘anomalies’ in the billing practices under MoJ’s electronic monitoring contracts with G4S and Serco. Ian said: “that despite their clear transgressions, both companies may still be allowed to work with other potential suppliers to support the Governments ‘objective of achieving a diverse market’ and added that:” we ’will now be using this as further evidence to parliamentarians that both companies have proved themselves to be unfit for purpose in terms of their contracts within the justice sector”.
  • In February this year Napo, along with sister unions UNISON and GMB, referred the UK Government to the ILO (International Labour Organisation - United Nations agency that is devoted to promoting internationally recognised human and labour rights) because the Government’s Transforming Rehabilitation proposals will breach the ILO’s Forced Labour Convention by handing over the supervision of Community Payback to the private sector. The Convention expressly requires forced labour, carried out under a court order, to be supervised by the public sector and for those undertaking the labour not to be placed at the disposal of private companies. Ian Lawrence said: "The breach of article 24 of the ILO Forced Labour Convention is yet another example of the coalition government’s lack of  principles when it comes to outsourcing public sector contracts” adding: “we are calling for a halt to these disastrous plans and for the government to explain why it has breached the ILO Labour Convention which clearly states that Unpaid Work should be supervised by the public sector”.

Exposing the privateers
From the date of the announcement that it was the intention to outsource and actual commencement of the London Serco CP contract it took around three years, and just two years for it to conclude. The privatisation of London Community payback has been a scandalous waste of public money, has risked public safety and is in breach of an ILO convention. Let’s re-double our campaigning efforts against probation privatisation to ensure that the short lived Serco London CP contract is the beginning and end of the privatisation folly. 

Sarah Friday
Napo National Official 

Lessons from the part privatisation of London Community Payback

(Page 6 Napo News 248 May 2013)

Pat Waterman, explains the background 

Colleagues working in Community Payback (formerly Community Service, then Unpaid Work), had felt that they were a neglected part of London Probation Trust (LPT) long before the transfer to Serco last summer. Over 10 years ago, following the introduction of Enhanced Community Punishment (ECP), which was supposed to make the sentence a more meaningful experience for our clients, Community Service in London saw a significant reorganisation. Many new roles were created which remained even though ECP was eventually shelved. With hindsight the groundwork was already being done to split Community Payback into two sections: case management and client supervision.

‘Privatisation blight’

For the past six years the spectre of privatisation, has hung over Community Payback.
Previous attempts to outsource failed; the stumbling blocks being data security and pension provisions. But, while all this was going on, CP was left to rot to make it ripe for privatisation. The bidding process started in earnest in 2011. The unions were invited to numerous meetings with LPT and treated to presentations about the tendering process. We can only begin to guess at the amount of public money devoted to putting together LPT’s bid. Despite repeated requests we were never allowed to know the details of the bid. Commercial confidentiality was cited and there was no meaningful consultation. The announcement in July that the bid had been won by SERCO and LPT was of little surprise to anyone. What was a surprise was the fact that although LPT was to retain the case management function, it announced it would do so in accordance with the Serco model, which demanded 
that all 68 case administrators posts be ‘deleted’ and that the number of full time case managers be reduced. We were not told the rationale for this.

Working to protect members

The branch worked hard in partnership with Chivalry Road to protect the interests of those members staying in LPT and to ensure that the ‘window’ for Voluntary Redundancy (VR) was extended to enable members to make decisions without feeling under pressure. We made sure that anyone who had already started the PQF was removed from the process and that redeployment opportunities within LPT were ring-fenced for those at risk of redundancy. In the end the restructuring was achieved without compulsorily redundancies and over 300 LPT staff were transferred to SERCO. However, no sooner was the ink dry on the trade union recognition agreement than Serco announced its plans to make 99 redundancies.

Sarah Friday takes up the story

The scale of the job losses arising from the privatisation of London CP is one of the most devastating aspects, with nearly 200 jobs being cut from a pre-privatisation total of around 550 (including about 100 casuals). We were shocked by the speed and number of the redundancies, and complained vigourously – up to a senior Serco managerial level – but were unable to persuade them to reduce the numbers. We were however able to influence the redundancy process and to persuade Serco to push back the deadline for applications for VR, and to ensure they abided by their commitment to manage the redundancies according to the LPT redundancy procedure. Cuts and job losses By the end of the process, 89 of the 99 redundancies were achieved through VR.

As with any redundancy situation people take VR for a variety of reasons; but there was a great deal of demoralisation as staff saw their ‘old way of working’ being devalued. It remains to be seen if the contract can work successfully with such a reduced workforce. Serco claim it can because of new ways of working. Some of these are imaginative, but they could potentially be very problematic and Napo has warned Serco that they could find themselves short of staff. Only time will tell. 

Staff transferred to Serco are covered by TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings Protection) regulations, but this is limited. Negotiations around the terms and conditions for those that transferred will no longer come under the remit of the Probation Service National Negotiating Council; instead all negotiations will take place locally through the JNCC. The necessity for compulsory redundancies could not be referred to the Joint Secretaries and the Probation Service job evaluation scheme does not apply to the new posts. Staff will no longer have the opportunity to study for PQF. Serco decided not to let their staff undertake the qualification because this training would have involved them working on a secondment with LPT, Serco’s competitor: and because putting staff through PQF would not benefit Serco.

Freedom of information

It is a scandal that when public sector work is outsourced the detail of the contracts are not available to the public. Napo wrote to Michael Spurr to express our concern at a statement made Chris Grayling, to the Justice Select committee in February when he said that there will be 40% savings from the London CP contract. We asked for a breakdown of how he arrived at this figure. How were the costs for LPT delivering CP measured? How much was saved through job cuts and office and workshop closures? How much was spent on redundancy payments? Were the costs of devising the process and drawing up the contract included? The response was couched in the language of ‘commercial confidentiality’, and so we are no further forward in finding out how much public money was wasted on this contract.

The main lesson to be learnt from this privatisation is that we need to make sure we have a strong membership base in those areas of the service under threat of privatisation. It is galling to hear LPT senior managers say at conferences that the unions did not present a problem in relation to privatisation going ahead. Unfortunately we were in a poor bargaining position in London CP as we didn’t have the membership. We need to make sure we are in a strong position to effectively represent members threatened with privatisation. So get out, organise and recruit!

Pat Waterman, Chair Greater London Napo
Sarah Friday, National Official


  1. At the end of the article last May, Napo having noted that a weakness in their negotiating position – with Serco - was that they represented too few members, they issued this clarion call:

    ' We need to make sure we are in a strong position to effectively represent members threatened with privatisation. So get out, organise and recruit! '

    Well, Napo was in, arguably, a stronger position 'to effectively represent members' when they came for the rest of probation. Yet the position of the entire workforce is now hardly in a better position that that which faced the first tranche to be privatised.

    You may as well recruit to a ponzi scheme if recruitment is an end in itself. Napo seems to be claiming some credit for the demise of Serco, as we hear about a letter to Spurr, media work and lately the referral alleging a breach of the forced labour convention – I suspect we will wait years to hear the fate of this referral, if ever. Looking busy, but not really doing much.

    What the Serco débâcle does illustrate, and we will get many more such illustrations in the years to come, is the waste of money in consultancy fees and set up costs that go into the creation of new operations. Now, the workers, to the tune of the Grand Old Duke of York, will be marched, or tuped, down the hill. All we have seen come out of the Serco farce is hundreds of job losses. The only growth industry will be in making new logos!

  2. Lets hope Full members take a hold of Napo's policy direction on Wednesday - if enough of them turn up to make a decision on behalf of the whole of Napo - I have seen very little discussion of the Special General Meeting and nothing about Motions to determine policy and action.

  3. I'm going my Trust has sanctioned for all to attend.

    1. I'm not going and I know it's apathetic but I really question why NAPO has arranged 3 x guest speakers rather than allow time for members to debate what's happening.

      We all know the speakers will be supportive and make excellent points why TR (and privatisation in general) shouldn't go ahead, but what is the point when there are specific members concerns that could be debated?

  4. The unions representing probation staff are not campaigning unions, they are more interested in securing membership numbers and focusing on day to day stuff. But come the big battles they are not fit for purpose. Grayling and MOJ researched how effective probation unions would be and came to the conclusion that they were not capable of combating TR. the opposition to TR and attacks on other aspects of the CJS have NOT been co ordinated, by unions involved, or the TUC or labour. I'm sure the civil servants who did the initial TR risk assessments will confirm that. The SGM appears to be a farce and the decision to amend various napo constitution elements to facilitate and legitimise TR is already done. Why do you think the SGM was arranged for a Wednesday!!!! Not only work commitments but family commitments etc will see few ordinary members attend. The fight to prevent TR is all but over. The staff split has happened, key senior managers either appointed or leaving under voluntary redundancy, hundreds of years of professional experience gone never to come back, logos for new CRCs have been produced by MOJ, new staff ids being prepared, profiteers meeting trust senior managers, visiting trust buildings, shite systems being put in place, case allocation system, re escalation systems, etc etc . Hundred of probation staff and MOJ staff taken off their normal duties to enable TR at the tax payers expense to simply hand over to profiteers - it's all but over, there is nothing in the pipeline from the unions, labour to ramp up opposition to TR. no doubt as part of the recriminations union reps will blame the inactivity and apathy of union members, which may well be the case, but the unions have failed to galvanise and motive probation workers. Plus ask yourself, why so many anonymous posts on here and elsewhere, that's a true indicator of worker fear, expressing opposition in todays workplace does bring with it recrimination-fact. So there you have it, in 2 or 3 years time a London CP situation will come to light, due to whistle blowers, more than likely a new government will need to pick up the pieces of a smashed once proud, internationally acclaimed probation profession. But whatever happens what will be lost on the 1st June 2014 will never be put back together again. The profiteers and TR supporters will have filled their pockets to varying degrees, whist highly trained, dedicated and loyal ex probation workers disappear into oblivion or are found stacking shelves in a supermarket. The future is bleak, the future is TR. unless... Happens!!!! Discuss

    1. There is truth in that - But I do not believe it is too late to stop it at least because - as I understand it the whole scheme seems almost unworkable in a coherent way, and likely to only be workable with a great deal of flexibility and effort from the workers at the front-line

  5. Billy Bragg -There Is Power In A Union

  6. Areply to Andrew who I know has seen the SGM reading is that it is purely about constitutional amendments (+ some speakers) and not about policy or action.
    I am sure there will be attempts to bring emergency motions about policy or action & perhaps about condemning what some see as NAPOs lack of action & even about getting more info about the JL affair - all will be ruled ineligible.........I predict a heated & fractious conference.....Bobbyjoe
    (I will be there but am not loking forward to it but I appreciate the need for quoracy).

    1. It will be about whatever collectively the members make it about - it will be about only the printed constitution unless some members get their heads together and bring some effective emergency motions.

      It has happened before but then there was at least NMAG - who would meet ahead of a general meeting.

    2. Hi Andrew, For those of us who have little knowledge could you give us a simple guide on brining emergency motions and a general outline of what to expect / processes that there will be at the SGM? Thanks

    3. I have extracted some sections of the constitution, which was too long for here, and have posted them in the Napo Forum.

      In short - any two members can seek to propose a motion at a general meeting - the Steering Committee will determine if it satisfies the conditions to be considered an emergency.

      As I hope is explained if you follow this link: -

    4. Thank you.

  7. I was reading in the Observer today about Boots who were taken over by a hedge fund 3/4 years ago. The hedge fund loaded the company with debt and took profits out( bonuses). They see workers as a cost only a cost that must be reduced to increase managers bonuses and shareholders profit.

    Probation workers will now be seen as costs only too; cost that must be reduced via large scale redundancies and reduced pay and conditions. This dear people is the future so hold on tight as you are shafted each and every year. In truth workers are the people that create value, they are a precious resource that needs to be nurtured. The current managerialist madness is utterly wrong and will end in disaster for the whole nation; in their stupid lust for profit by reducing cost rather than adding value the economy and society will be driven into the ground before it erupts in violent social unrest. Neoliberalism only works for the few it then screws it up for all. This is the logic of the current social and economic system; it needs to go and go now.

  8. Yeah, but come the revolution, Grayling, Gove and Peter Hitchen up against the wall, bop, bop, bop! Wolfie Smith 1977. In view of recent news that we are now in the TR trial period, I am keen to see what has changed in my place of work tomorrow...and more to the point what directives will be shared about co-location!

  9. Union strategy is DELAY, DELAY, DELAY. But have a look around probation is stinking fast, nothing is being delayed, staff not being reassured, staff being sifted and relocated, TR systems coming into being daily, court staff piloting new risk assessment tools for months now, Etc etc the TR merry go round continues. So were is the delay, superficial delays but in the background stuff still being done