Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Decision Time

I start this post with some trepidation because every time I bring up the subject of Napo there tends to be a predictable response. My motives are questioned as being anti-union; there's a chorus of unions only being as good as their members; suggestions are made about meetings, passing motions, etc; or just a straight repudiation of whatever I say in terms of not enough being done by the leadership at Chivalry Road.

I don't expect this post will be any different, but in the interests of trying to put up a decent fight against TR and based on what I know the situation to be, I simply cannot stay silent. It might be the summer holidays with many colleagues either on leave or about to go on leave, but the TR clock is still ticking, there's an election going on for Napo's next leaders and the closing date for AGM motions fast approaches. 

There are a number of things that need to be said and seeing as the Napo Forum has once more fallen silent, mailouts to members have ceased since Chris Pearson took up the post of interim Chair and the General Secretary's blog posts get ever more convoluted, somewhat reluctantly it looks as if the task falls to me. 

Lets cut to the chase. What the hell is going on with a Judicial Review? We know from Harry Fletcher that the MoJ is astonished that there has been no legal challenge by Napo on any aspect of anything related to TR. Why not? Answer - apparently there is no money due to a loss in membership and an increase in spending across the board and the Napo leadership are refusing to consider using any of the considerable cash reserves. 

At some point the membership have got to decide what to do about this state of affairs either by way of motions to put before the AGM, or making sure they use their postal ballot that elects a new Chair mandated to shake things up. Are we really going to go down in history as having allowed Chris Grayling to get away with dismantling the probation service without mounting any kind of legal challenge? I'm cautioned that there might be a secret cunning plan, but equally there might not be and there are time limits on mounting any JR.  

Yet again I'm aware that approaches have been made to sympathetic lawyers by at least one disgruntled member and the clear message is that there most certainly is a case to be explored. So why is nothing happening? What's the new interim Chair doing about all this? It's most unfortunate that this kind of discourse has to happen very publicly via the megaphone of a blog, but all attempts to do otherwise have failed and radio silence has descended once more over Chivalry Road.

It's decision time folks in terms of the future direction of the union and the prosecution of the fight against TR. Is it to be steady as she goes and more of the same, or something different, but possibly volatile? All I will say is this. Only one candidate for Chair has even publicly acknowledged the existence of this blog, has openly posted contributions and is in regular contact with the author and others sympathetic to fighting TR independently of Napo. Doesn't it make sense that we all work together to fight this bloody mess? Only one candidate has shown the slightest interest in so doing.      


  1. Baroness Warsi made a brave decision yesterday. I've never liked her politics nor her public persona, but have to respect her courage and conviction. The Spectator offered the following on its blog:

    "UPDATE, 10.15: We’re still waiting for the Prime Minister’s response to Warsi’s resignation. But here’s what one of her Tory colleagues had to say to me:

    ‘Self-indulgent, arrogant, hypocritical, and now a non-entity. She jumped before Dave pushed her after the election.’

    Some of her colleagues wonder whether she might defect to Labour: there was certainly a fear that she would do so if pushed before the General Election."

    Thats the level of public abuse that nay-sayers face. So, napo contenders, are you shrinking violets or courageous voices? I believe TR is intolerably risky, de-professionalising and wholly damaging. But not one candidate seems to be grasping this particular nettle - I'm still not convinced by the one who embraces this blog because there seems to be an unspoken reticence. I would like a candidate who can & will take on Grayling, TR, Spurr, Allars, the GS and others as required; who will pursue JR; who will agitate, poke & prod at Westminster; and who has a credible media presence.

    1. Interesting you mention Baroness Warsi - like you I have no time for her at all, but some cynics see this as testing the water in her home town of Dewsbury and the possibility of renouncing ermine in favour of another crack at the Commons. Who knows, but I'm just hesitant to link principled and the Baroness in the same sentence.

      Which brings us on to Napo. The silence from the candidates is deafening, bar one, but many clearly feel the choice on offer is not good. There is definitely a reticence about the one candidate who is willing to talk - so maybe we should encourage that person to talk a bit more? Possibly members might have some questions to ask? Maybe it would flush out other contenders?

    2. Hustings. That is Genius, Jim. E-hustings.

    3. Nor am I a Warsi fan, but I do not see her resignation as cynical. They are not homogeneous on the Right. Claire Short resigned over Iraq and at the time her motives were trashed. I admire Warsi and anyone who has some knowledge of the Palestinian – Israeli tragedy should be pleased that she has drawn a line and actually had the courage to make a moral stand.

  2. I agree entirely with Jim that there has to be a legal challenge. I am the disgruntled member who has been to a lawyer and we need to pursue this, but we need Napo. As a disgruntled, resigned PO I am no good as a complainant. The signs look good but it needs a union and the money they have. As the lawyer said to me, 'Why aren't Napo doing it and where is the money all the members pay every month?' I was unable to answer him. I have heard that it is a matter of public record that Napo have £2 million in reserve, having paid out £250,000 to pay off J Ledger, and are keeping it for Napo redundancies should the union fold. This should be used for fighting TR. Otherwise, what are unions for?

  3. I'm no advocate for JL Joanna but would question figures of payoff-they will be ib accounts that can be accessed on Napo website. IF Napo could not afford to continue it would look to amalgamate with anither Union rather than "end" fullstop. So there would have to be some redundancies of Napo employees & as employers the National Officrrs and NEC would have to ensure monies were avsilable for that contingency but thats not ssme as saying we haven't enough for a JR. Sounds like some precise questions need putting to Treasurer at next NEC if not before

    1. I heard JL was paid a year's salary and if you add in the legal fees it must be at least 150k plus or even as high as suggested. Apart from these costs it was the sheer unaccountability of it all that is the scandal. And no doubt HF didn't go cheaply. Whoever the elite they know how to look out for each other. Maybe Dino could tell us how much and his view of it all.

    2. From Napo news June it just a part of the report relevant to the questions above. I understand all legal fees will be published under a different section I recall the special aid fund is where legal accounts are recorded these costs are reported.

      Income and Expenditure
      The total income of the union for the period was
      £2,220,842. This amount included payments of £2,014,952
      in respect of membership of the union. The union’s total
      expenditure for the period was £2,287,123. The union does
      not maintain a political fund.
      Salary paid to and other benefits provided to the General
      Secretary, President and members of the Executive
      The current General Secretary of the union was paid
      £62,143 in respect of salary and £1,500 in respect of
      The former General Secretary of the union was paid
      £119,093 in respect of Remuneration & Compensation
      and £989 in respect of Pension.

      I am contactable and am able to discuss matters that I have a full knowledge of and of course offer opinion . My apologies I had written a lenghthy response to this post but have deleted it. I am not sure what the final position is within Napo and would not unwittingly want to publish something for the record which might arguably be claimed could be damaging to the Union Napo or its interests.


  4. I have been a member of NAPO for the best part of 20yrs. Like many on this blog, I have been totally disillusioned by the lack of communication and action on the part of my union. I have seriously thought about leaving NAPO as I feel badly let down and I have given serious consideration to other union options that are available to me. The one thing that has prevented me from jumping ship is the knowledge that if I ever needed representation locally, I could always be assured that my local rep (Dino Peros) was the one person I could turn to for advice and support. In the words of Martin Luther King “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”. I can assure you Dino Peros will not be silent, we are in a fight for survival and we need someone who will take off the gloves and stand up to Grayling.

  5. Jim have you thought about actually meeting with Napo General Secretary Ian Lawrence and offering to work with Napo? As Joanna says we actually need Napo because a JR, if feasible, is costly

    A union cannot operate without reserves and as an employer you would expect them to behave like a responsible one leaving enough in the kitty for contingencies such as staff redundancy that increasingly looks likely. I have been told that Napo have no money and whilst membership is shrinking may in fact eventually be forced to make staff redundant as it has already scaled down activities such as national committees and printing costs etc. If we want to fight TR we need to bolster up the union as much as possible.

    On the subject of Dino. We need someone who is less divisive and will bring people back to Napo rather than make them think about leaving. I have to say that I will seriously consider leaving if Dino is elected leader as I have seen him in action and was not at all impressed. If he is elected it will not be on merit as a leader, strategist etc.I think he is a supportive local rep and I hope he will continue to do what he is good at locally.

    I heard a rumour that some probation staff in the NPS are interested in joining PCS seeing themselves more as civil servants who work n probation rather than as probation staff which is somewhat ironic given that Napo is dominated by ex-PCS employees. If Napo were to merge with another union then PCS or Unison are the obvious options but both have their own internal problems and politics and would certainly not relish the prospect of a costly JR. They also have bureaucracy that makes Napos look like a well oiled machine.

    1. "Jim have you thought about actually meeting with Napo General Secretary Ian Lawrence and offering to work with Napo?"

      Given what I've said about the General Secretary and what he's reputed to have said about me, a meeting would be highly unlikely and almost certainly unproductive.

      Napo have never publicly acknowledged the blog and indeed as far as I know have actively considered ways in which it could be closed down at various times.

      There was a degree of informal dialogue via a third party with the previous Chair and a direct approach was made to the current interim Chair, but with no response.

      In reality there is probably no possibility of any dialogue with the present leadership, but I am in contact with Dino Peros one of the candidates for Chair.

      Of course it would be sensible to work together simply because the blog has demonstrated beyond doubt the power of member involvement. It's up to the membership to decide whether or not to mandate their leadership to co-operate with the blog or not. I'm happy to talk to anyone that wants to fight TR. Napo doesn't want to talk at the moment.

      On the subject of Dino, the union and membership are divided and are being given a choice - more of the same or something different. Whoever wins has got to deal with a divided membership. Surely what counts is who is right?

      There are rumours concerning PCS and I'm told IL is seen around their offices quite a bit.

    2. You make some reasonable points . Anon 12:56 but for the record I had written to the GS a long long while ago urging attention to this blog and the obvious developing site JB was building. It was clear to me then we need to utilise \ capitalise and just join forces. Is this not what Unionism is about?

      I can search out the copy if it helps but as I understand things it does not appear to have been an adopted way forwards.

      It is a sad reflection of the times that we are defiantly seeing increased tensions and members dissatisfaction. The results of the NEC elections were out today and in some parts union activism has not seen any NEC reps come forward. We should be concerned about this.

      By taking a hard line this creates tensions. I am labelled with a divisive title. If being difficult even militant to hold a position in order to protect staff in jobs or from unfair and badly executed disciplinary procedures, overworked and criticised members, adopting opinion which challenges the mainstream acceptance requires sacrifice in my case the penalties are the slating I read on here. I don't mind actually you have your views. If your just
      just repeating what has been said already call me divisive. I appreciate you may have some knowledge of what I am reported as doing well. This is for the Union and the benefit of members.

      We can only elect from the pool of candidates we have in the frame and you have your vote. Don't leave the game when the democratic process is not to your liking. Stay in the Union assist whoever is elected and influence their thinking. If that's not me you will be happy. I wont be leaving though, I will do as I did before, respect the election process then get behind the leadership and continue to try and make a difference wherever possible.

      Alternatively make the same sacrifice all the candidates are offering . Long travel days overnights away from the comforts of home. Missed loved ones Late calls constant problems, scrutiny accountability and try and respect all the complex issues in front of us all. Manage the tensions which somehow just will not let me stand by and not try to do more. With the support of the membership collectively against what is planned for us and has happened to our services.

      Having 30 years service, seeing and being part of the cycled generations of change. Probation has constantly adjusted and proved to be a fantastic criminal justice agency. Our vocational Officers and the variations of role all the service Officers provide now get rewarded with Mr Grayling incompetent grand design. The now impacting badly on all staff leave me as well many others at boiling point. I hope you might agree?

      No armchair politics for me Anon ! I am still prepared to do whatever it takes, to fight our corner until there is nothing left to fight for . I just hope you join that battle than put your signature on a resignation from the Union. We need every one of our members including your style and mine. We need to bring back those who have gone already and welcome new where possible. Your call !


  6. These larger Unions will also take less interest in professional issues. Napo still has potential to offer members best service I think. The Sept 3rd lobby offers good chance for members to get together and maybe questions could be put to National staff present there as well?

  7. So every one of the candidates has someone who thinks they are crap and half of the membership is going to resign if X gets the job. This is like pathetic petulant teenagers on a music forum. It's a democracy!! JL's package was authorized by the NEC in light of all the available information. That's as transparent as it needs to be. It's not brilliant but it's history. Get over it. We have got better things to think about. If NAPO is struggling it is because NAPO members want everything and expect to give nothing in return. They expect Chiv. Rd to do it all for them without even working to contract. Solidarity is the only strategy we needed and we haven't had it since the Ledger incident because everyone with a grievance sees the solution to be walking away rather than seeking to change things.

    1. I agree the walking away is damaging but found the secrecy & arrogance around Ledger's leaving present most distasteful. I have paid subs for most of 22 years, except for a principled break when (in my opinion) napo shafted one member (an excellent colleague) to save the reputation of another. The politics of the situation were skewed and poisonous. I wrote to Chiv Rd and explained my position. Never an acknowledgement. I resigned, withheld my monies, and was without union membership until those I felt were 'at fault' had left office. I then re-joined. The reported abusive behaviour of Ledger and the golden 'go away' was painful. The apparent inaction and lack of leadership by the current GenSec is equally painful. The union is its sum, but its leaders are expected to lead. Members have been mentally, emotionally & physically exhausted by TR, by bullying, by abusive management, by treacherous Trusts. They, maybe naiively, hoped their Union would fight their corner, watch their backs, use their influence.

      From where I sit, several hundred miles from London, all I see is collusion, mates' rates, I'm Alright Jack and empty promises. £70k a year is a lot of money to pay for someone to negotiate a merger with PCS.

      I have a vote and will use it. But I want to use it, not throw it away. I want an option that makes me feel confident.

      And no, I can't and won't stand. Not because I'm lazy, or have any other excuse. But because I will be honest and say I couldn't do the job. That doesn't mean I can't hope for an exceptional option to be available.

      Does that mean I want everything and do nothing?

    2. To anon 15:12 somewhat over-generalised! There may well be some members who want everything but give nothing but that is not true of all! Yes NEC seem to have authorised a settlement (though it might have been put to them as a "done deal" : I dont know) but what is not easy for members to grasp necessarily is that being in the role of employer is not as straight forward as it may appear and sometimes negotiating a settlement no matter how infuriating may be assessed as better use of members money than hearings/dismissal then going through appeal and potentially an employment tribunal(which happened with the previous AG and took nearly 3 yrs to resolve!).That would have been a wretched distraction and drain on union at this time.

  8. Have just looked at PCS website which gives access to a report on their July NEC .That includes the following "The NEC reflected on the debate and decisions made by ADC, and it was agreed that general secretary Mark Serwotka would write to the general secretary of Unite, outlining our conference policy with a view to establishing the basis for further discussions on joining with Unite.
    Members will be kept up-to date" What this highlights to me is the importance of retaining and building up our professional association and union in Napo .Ref above there is no reason why members cant contact candidates and ask "why should I vote for you" and weigh up the responses received. It boils down to personal choice ultimately.

  9. For the record NEC did not approve the JL package it was done behind closed doors and NEC told after the event. A package and pay off to an alleged sexual predator. No disciplinary, a quiet handshake and a suitcase of our money. That's what the chair gave him and now that chair has legged it with his tail between his legs and his other half chair was out the door with doubts around her integrity.

    When are we going to get a leader with balls, a brain and integrity. You may not like Dino's style and someone once wrote here 'they didn't like the way he chaired'. If the electorate thinks charing a meeting is all it takes to be NAPO chair they are sadly mistaken. I listened to some of the radio comments today about Boris who receives endless criticism about his persona by the public yet what was said about him by those who do business with him was positive and many sang his praises. We all have critics and none of us are perfect. Dino is genuine about his passion for unionism, determined to fight TR and extremely capable and knowledgeable. He says it as it is and takes a hard line when required. His approach takes courage and conviction and is well placed.

    From what I see at NEC and meetings, I have no confidence in the other candidates abilities to lead NAPO. That isn't to say they are not decent people who intend well but the election isn't a beauty contest its about abilities and what the candidates stand for.