Tuesday, 8 July 2014

A Year of Activity in London

Chair’s Report

The last year has been the busiest in the history of Greater London Branch

Re-reading my report to last year’s AGM it is hard to believe that there was so much to report back about the consequences of the selling off of Community Payback to SERCO, and other re-structuring exercises in London Probation Trust, that the Transforming Rehabilitation Plans did not get a mention until over half way through the report.

To state the obvious the work of the branch since the last AGM has been dominated by TR.

The initial consultation had already been concluded and in May Chris Grayling announced his plans to dissolve the trusts. Already Greater London Branch had set up a “War Cabinet” which met regularly throughout the early part of the summer to devise a campaign plan.

With agreement from the Senior Management Team, we participated in as many of the office based briefing sessions as we could. Together with the other Branch Officers I personally attended over a dozen office meetings during the months of September and October, trying to make members aware of the potential consequences of these proposed changes. Usually the managers charged with conducting these briefing sessions were very grateful for our input and, as a consequence of our presence, we gained many new members.

I made a promise to members that wherever Grayling went I would try to be there too and, throughout the latter part of last year, I have been outside the MOJ on many occasions. With other Branch Officers and activists I have been to the Houses of Parliament to meet sympathetic MP’s such as Jenny Chapman. I have been to meetings where Nick Clegg and Chris Grayling have been speaking and left them in no doubt of the views of this branch. With David Masterson and David Raho, I went to Brighton for the Labour Party Conference where we joined members from other branches in making sure that Shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Kahn knew exactly what NAPO thought.

Unfortunately the nationally organised Lobby of Parliament on 9th October took place on the same day as my mother’s 100th Birthday Party. But I know that Greater London Branch was, as always, well represented at an event that was one of the largest lobbies, by a trade union, seen in recent times.

The National AGM in October was attended by over seventy members from this branch. GLB members spoke in a variety of debates from both sides and other branches commented favorably on the diversity of opinions that can, and do, exist within London.

At the National AGM Ian Lawrence announced that NAPO would be calling for Strike action the following month. As soon as we got back from Llandudno the other Branch officers and I set about devising a plan of action to organise for the strike. We made it our priority to set up office meetings and attend local briefings to rally support. We provided support to local activists and advice on how to organise picket lines. David Raho drew up a model Press Statement which we distributed widely and, using the experience gained as a Branch Press Officer when we were last on strike over twenty five years ago, I advised members on how best to get media attention.

The response was fantastic. Over 50% of members joined the action and I don’t think there was a local paper that did not cover the Strike. I saw photographs of striking branch members everywhere.

We also organised an open topped “Battle Bus” which went through Central London stopping at the MOJ, the Houses of Parliament, the RCJ and the Old Bailey and we made sure our voices were heard. We were joined on this bus by journalists, members working in NOMS and also the National Chair of NAPO.

The rest of the year saw us continuing our campaigning activity in parliament and the press with some degree of success. Certainly one of my highlights was when I was interviewed by The Artist Taxi Driver which was subsequently posted on YouTube. I am advised that it has had over four thousand “hits”. Another first for me was being invited on to “Colourful Radio” which is one of the most popular community radio stations in London.

Although I personally am a bit old fashioned when it comes to matters technological, I soon realised how important social media is to any modern campaigning activity. Our consistently high social media presence has contributed to NAPO entering the top 5 position as one of the ‘most mentioned’ social media users in the UK trade union movement. To put this achievement in context, NAPO are ahead of some much larger trade unions that employ full time staff solely tasked with maintaining their social media profile.

NAPO’s campaigning activities, both nationally and locally, continued into the New Year. I have written numerous letters on behalf of the branch to MP’s and the press. Letters to The Guardian and The Evening Standard were even published. I know I am not the only one doing this and it is a particular source of pride when I see other letters published from members of this branch. On this score Mike Guilfoyle deserves a special mention.

NAPO had a visible presence this year at London Pride and I am proud to have been able to offer LAGIP and others financial assistance to facilitate this.

Over the course of the year I have sought to ensure that this branch has played its part in meetings and events set up by our National Officers and Officials. I have attended Justice Alliance Rallies, Howard League events and other political demonstrations. Together with David Raho I even attended a NOMS Seminar. We have made particularly good links with the Howard League who have shared with us some of their contacts and media strategies. Indeed if it had not been for us there would not have been any photographs of Frances Crook handing in a dossier on private company contracts to the Serious Fraud Office at New Scotland Yard as her Press Officer forgot to charge his camera battery.

I organised a coach to take members to Birmingham when it was announced that there would be an SGM in March. At this meeting our General Secretary announced that there would be further strike action later that same month. The Branch Officers and I immediately contacted all the local activists from the last strike to encourage them to try to get members to support this latest action.

Regrettably this second strike was not as well supported by members as the first. About 20% of branch members took strike action; a situation that was replicate throughout the country. Nevertheless there was a well supported rally outside the Houses of Parliament at which I was one of the Guest Speakers. We then marched to the MOJ where we sang Happy Birthday to Chris Grayling and presented him with the biggest cake I have ever seen.

At an office meeting last summer members asked if I could communicate with them more regularly as the TR plans started to unfold. Well I think I have certainly done that. I have personally sent out over sixty e-mails to members of this branch and am starting to run out of ideas for catchy titles which are designed to pique your interest and encourage you to open them.

Including the last AGM there have been 6 branch meetings with an average attendance of 58. All but one of our branch meetings have been quorate. We have had some amazing speakers including Lord Ramsbotham, Matt Foot ( Justice Alliance), Frances Crook (Howard League), John McDonnell MP, PJ McParlin (National Chair POA), and Lee Jasper (Co-Chair of BARAC).Indeed the range of speakers at GLB meetings would not be out of place at a national NAPO meeting.

All of this activity notwithstanding, we have tried to carry on with “business as usual” in the branch, just as you all have been doing in your offices. Requests for information from members have increased in these uncertain times and I have done my best to respond to every enquiry as quickly and as thoroughly as I can. Requests for formal representation have continued unabated despite the upheavals and, with the help of the other Branch Officers and our other accredited representatives, I have responded to all such requests speedily and appropriately.

Since the end of last year, together with the Branch Vice-Chairs, I have attended regular weekly meetings with Senior Management to discuss the “measures” that were needed to implement the TR plans. While leaving everyone in no doubt of the strength of our opposition to these plans, it was important that we participated in these meetings to try to ensure that members’ interests were protected as far as possible. I negotiated an agreed appeals procedure for the Sifting Process and a procedure for dealing with the grievances members were asked to submit as part of a nationally agreed plan of action. I did what I could to slow the transfer process down and it gives me a degree of satisfaction that London was one of the last areas to split its staff.

I am now actively engaged in setting up consultative and negotiating structures, with the senior managers of both the London CRC and London NPS, to ensure that there continues to be forums where this trade union can represent the interest of its members.

Members will be aware that, in order to protect the interests of those members who now work for SERCO I recruited Jack Cohen, accredited National Representative, to attend their negotiating committee meetings and represent them individually where necessary. I was responsible for conducting the TUPE negotiations when LPT staff were originally transferred to SERCO and this experience will stand me in good stead when they are transferred back into the CRC. Indeed the whole experience of representing members in SERCO will be useful if the CRC does get sold off.

There have been many changes in the national group of Officers and Officials but this branch has benefited from having a stable group of Branch Officers and Branch Executive members. I know my photograph seems sometimes to be everywhere but believe me I could not possibly do this all on my own. I would like to thank the other Branch Officers and the Executive members for their support and for pulling together in what has undoubtedly been a difficult year.

I cannot complete an annual report without giving thanks to our Branch Administrator Beverley Cole. Many of you will not know of all the work she does but a branch of this size could not possibly function without her.

And finally I want to give thanks to all the members of this branch. Without you there is no union.

Pat Waterman
Branch Chair
July 2014.


  1. Pat's great unfortunately her message doesn't reach the risk robots who are in the majority,

  2. If we all put the effort in that Joanna, Jim and Pat do we could overthrow this shyte. Well done all of you, I admire your fight.

    1. And the irony is, the new labourites are determined to get rid of her...

  3. I heard that the guy who standing against Pat thinks that his experience as an SPO will help him to make friends with senior managers and herald in a new era of peace and harmonious cooperation -what planet is he on? They are apparently not that opposed to TR and think that appeasement is course most likely to succeed -more like caving in and selling us down the line.
    I and many other members of Napo want a strong leader with principles who senior managers respect and listen to precisely because they reflect the views of those at the front line even if this makes them a bit uncomfortable and wakes them up to reality.

    I will be voting for straight talking Pat without any hesitation.

    We are lucky to have her and Joanna too fighting TR. Beware of Trojan Horses and smooth talkers.

    1. We need Pat to help restore credibility, reputation of NAPO & to have a proper fight. Enough of the previous wishy washy fighting which sold us out.

    2. If Pat had been National Chair then there wouldn't have been any nonsense. Every NAPO member in London worth their salt should be at the Napo Greater London Branch AGM on Friday at 2pm showing their support. Anyone can find an excuse not to go and leave matters to others but that's the kind of attitude that helps Grayling an makes him think no one will oppose him. Be there and let's have the biggest meeting ever as you can bet Graylings spies will be telling him how many people were there.

    3. Sorry should have said Friday 18th at 2pm

    4. Sorry but am confused here-is Pat standing for National Chair or re-election as Chair of London Branch?

    5. Re-election of Greater London Branch.

    6. I think Hulse is a friend of Tom 'CRC ACO hopeful' Rendon. Just make sure Rendon doesn't catch the branch cold again like he did when he got elected by getting a load of cronies to turn up who then disappeared from future NAPO meetings!

    7. That's exactly whats going on! The " rendonistas" are enraged by PW telling her members the truth about his ill-fated career move.

  4. I wonder why the resistance collapsed between the first and second strike – from a 50% turnout in London down to 20% in the second strike – figures likely to have been replicated across the country. The turnout for the first strike was disappointing when one in two worked normally, but the second was abysmal. Many at the time believed it was the wrong call, particularly as Napo had previously signed the framework agreement and therefore the aims and objectives of further strike action were obscure. But it is difficult to blame the Napo leadership when there is no evidence that the membership was straining at the leash to strike. Arguably, the braver decision would have been to follow the Unison example and settle down after having signed the agreement.

    Overall, isn't the conclusion that the majority of Napo members were unmotivated to fight TR. Some may have been thinking more of the sweetener of VR instead. The probation workforce did not even bother to sign the e-petition in their thousands. Unless something new and dramatic happens future strike action would only show the extent of the disconnect between those fighting TR and the vast majority nowhere to be seen in what has become a apolitical and compliant workforce, quick to moan but slow to stand up to anything that requires collective action.

    I admire the Pat Watermans of this world because they keep the flame of honest and unselfish representation alive; they stand by their principles whatever the inducements to assimilate management viewpoints. Unfortunately sycophants and careerists are ten-a-penny – 'one person with a belief is a social power equal to ninety-nine who have only interests'. (John Stuart Mill)

    1. I don't have the answer Netnipper but good points to get some understanding of. Taking my experience of standing on the picket with a 90 out number instead of the 270 local membership from both the allocated NPS and CRC. I formed the impression over many discussions that the NPS allotted staff had felt more comfortable in the idea they would remain within Public service and retain a belief in security role and function of the state. In sad reality on a new diet of two types of casework and cases piled high with shoddy It is not so appealing. That said I do not have the breakdown of the 90 figure on second strike.

      I don't think many of us had a lot of confidence in the last action yet I realise many members are frustrated that NAPO is not to join the solidarity of this Thursdays mass action. It means we cannot complain when we lose the support of other Unions.


  5. in my LDU one of the offices is run by an SPO who people are in fear of - she didn't strike and I think that influenced some people's decisions - lets face it the anarcists of Probation past have long gone - now we're left, on the whole, with under 30 freshfaced nodding dogs who don't really have minds of their own or would rather keep a low profile for obvious reasons. nobody told me this but I know people tend to be in fear of her and she has been known to give tricky allocations to people she doesn't like.

    Another reason is for the 2nd strike most people:

    a) thought it was pointless as TR was a done deal and to be true that does appear to be the case

    b) by strike two they knew where they had been allocated to - in my LDU everyone and I mean everyone got their choice. about 6 out of about 25ish striked.

    Turnout maybe different now though because NPS are so quiet they are fearful for their jobs - if it was a strike about re-merging they'd probably go out. Me on the other hand, I've striked twice and wouldn't do it again its time for some of the others to lose some hard earned cash.

  6. It is time to stand up against the bullying we have endured for a number of years. Going green trust status and now TR. Enough of the in fighting let's stop focusing on a few egos and combine to stand against Grayling and his cronies.

  7. Napo will be no use when crc is sold off. They were less use than a chocolate teapot when representing serco staff. So much so that most serco staff left Napo and joined unison.

    Nearly every member of serco is unison and theyve been well taken care of.

    1. Funny that in my area they say the same thing about unison . No information and not enough specialist knowledge in probation issues! One word regularly used by unison members to describe the service they receive is crap. That's why lots of unison members have left and joined napo!

    2. The last 3 napo AGMs I've been to have featured Pat Waterman (no intro needed) getting to her feet and speaking with a passionately about the reality of Serco (and other companies) and the privatisation of CP in London being the foot in the door. This is of course a matter of record. I know for a fact that Napo have been working hard on behalf of their members in Serco and also within London Probation who are contracted to do work for Serco as part of the contract. I am glad to hear from you Anonymous 23:23 that unison are working for their members in Serco. As to napo members leaving and going to other unions I think you will find that napo membership is in fact increasing in London and members get a good deal. Unison are napo's sister union so better we use our respective strengths and focus on the train crash that is TR that impacts on the members of both unions.

  8. Hi I know its not related to the article but I just came across your blog and wanted to ask how I would go about becoming a probation officer ?Many thanks Jessica

    1. Jessica,

      I am slightly astonished why anyone would want to become a probation officer at the present time, but it's basically bad news I'm afraid as you've just missed a massive recruitment campaign by NPS.


      There were 800 applicants I'm told.

      If you remain keen - and I would urge you to carry on reading the blog to better understand the changes going on - keep watch for CIC adverts especially for UPW supervisers. It might also be worth becoming a volunteer as there is evidence they get fast track treatment in some areas for PSO jobs coming up.

      Hope this helps,


    2. If despite the crisis in probation you are determined to explore the work as a career also explore social work - both primarily use similar skills and benefit from a close understanding of each other.

      In fact nowadays much work with young offenders - from aged 10 to 18 years is done by people qualified as social workers working for local councils, usually in Young Offender Teams, within Social Service Departments. The Labour Party have it as policy to increase the upper age to 20 years.

      However, with a social work qualification alone one can immediately be employed as a probation officer.

      With a qualification to work as a probation officer, one is not currently (Since about 1998) allowed to work as a social worker.

      Social workers also work with what are sometimes termed mentally disordered offenders, and also one has more legal powers to exercise than as a probation officer. Probation officers can only recommend a person be detained, a social worker can actually initiate such proceedings, for those considered mentally ill or children - with lots of safeguards supporting individual social workers who need management backing.

  9. Who is Rod Hull or is it Rob Hull or Hulse or something?

  10. Rob huth plays for stoke doesn't he??. Or is he the one with the emu?..

    1. It's Rob Hull. He's been in london probation for about 12 years. And been to about 3 Napo meetings....