Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Latest From Napo 55

The following is the latest blog by Napo General Secretary Ian Lawrence published yesterday:-  

Show us what you are going to do?

By now you should have had some feedback from last weeks meeting of Branch Chairs and Representatives which the Officer Group convened as soon as we took the unanimous decision to discontinue the Judicial Review following legal advice.

The meeting could easily have escalated into recriminatory mode, but it didn't. That was because those in attendance came along to give us open and honest feedback from their constituent members but to also listen carefully to the comprehensive presentation that was made by our lawyers Slater and Gordon and our accompanying narrative, in an atmosphere of mutual respect in accord with Napo's values.

In the space of a full day we covered a lot of ground about what has taken place over the last 12 months. We explained how we have tried to pursue the legal leg of the TR campaign as a means of trying to convince the judiciary that the award of CRC Contracts was unsafe, but we also fully acknowledged that our communications on the day that we announced the discontinuance were not up to the standards that we normally set. In return, we were able to describe the unique pressures that we were under, and with the benefit of hindsight the Officers and myself have taken the constructive criticism about this on board and appreciate the way in which feedback was imparted to us.

It was clear to me from day one of my time at Napo that our internal democracy is about as clear and transparent as you will see anywhere within the trade union world and, it ought to be said, the wider political horizon that we operate in. As the day moved on it became possible for everyone (and by that I mean everyone) to appreciate the anger and disappointment that ultimately we had achieved all that was legally available to us through JR. As importantly, there was also a great number of tributes to all of those courageous Napo members who have put their names to witness statements about the issues that formed a major part of our efforts. I was able to report that I have written on behalf of the Officers to thank each of them personally for stepping up to the plate when they were needed. I am sure that we are voicing the sentiments of all our members in that regard.

Looking ahead

The latter part of the meeting allowed us all a useful opportunity to focus on the continuing TR campaign as well as the activities that we are planning from now until the next General Election.

Two key aspects are worth mentioning here. One is the fact that the Court decided that all of the evidence from the Secretary of State that was submitted during the litigation must remain confidential to a limited number of Officers and Officials. We believe that this does nobody any favours and I include the MoJ and Noms in that respect, because it's one thing saying that you have taken, are taking, and will be taking further steps to make the service operationally safe by the time of the expected formal share sale on 1st February; but it's quite another to demonstrate publicly how and exactly when this will happen.

Here is what I have said to Michael Spurr on this very subject:

18th December 2014

Dear Michael,

Following on from the Judicial Review proceedings, those of us at Napo who were in the confidentiality ring are somewhat at a loss to understand why you would not want to make your submissions to the High Court publicly available in the spirit of open government, transparency and accountability. Moreover, it is our belief that if probation staff were able to read your submissions, then they would better comprehend the ministerial decision to proceed with the sale of the CRCs.

Much of what was in the evidence bundles is already either public, or fairly public, knowledge. There were Probation Instructions which are readily available to all. There was then the Service Specification which we had previously seen, albeit in an earlier iteration. There was then a significant amount of Management Information data which had recently been published on the MoJ website and then of course the HMIP Report - now also published. Finally there were the reports on TG4 and TG5, which we believe are also now in the public arena.

Primarily then, this leaves statements made by yourself, Ursula Brennan, Antonia Romeo and Ged Bates which, taken together, rebutted Napo's own evidence and provided the Justice Secretary with confirmation that it was safe to proceed to sale. Having read these (and indeed the TG4 and TG5 reports) we do not see anything here that could be assigned as 'commercially sensitive'. For the sake of confidentiality, we would be happy to see redaction of any references to either individual staff members or any particular work locations. Beyond that however, it is our belief that your collective credibility with staff would only be enhanced if you were to demonstrate to them, by releasing these documents, exactly how the decision to proceed was arrived at.

Yours sincerely,

I await a reply, but meanwhile all we have seen on this important subject is last weeks statement from the Ministry of Spin with Colin's name on it, saying that no concessions or undertakings were given to the Court or the unions. It's a bit pathetic, but it's symptomatic of the standards of non-communication that we have come to expect these days.

The second recent development follows my letter to the CRC bidders that I mentioned I had sent them all last week, and which has generated some interest already with a couple of them booking some meeting time with us.

You will recall that in the absence of the official evidence that we believe should be published, Napo provided an analysis to the bidders of the steps that the SofS has said he has relied upon to enter into contractual arrangements with them. I hope they negotiated themselves an exit route if or when they come to see that the operational state of readiness that Grayling must have promised them turns out to be nothing but a sham.

We will of course keep you posted on developments. We will also impress upon all those that we do see as to how valuable it will be for them to properly engage with our local representatives and hope that after taking ownership they will instruct their CRC Chief Executives to abide by the National Staff Transfer Agreement and the associated collective bargaining machinery with all of the unions.

ICT problems what problems?

Clearly some nervousness exists in high places about us sharing what our members are telling us about operating standards, as this reply (from Colin again) to some representations about ICT Problems indicates. Note it's also been copied to the bidders.

Judge for yourself whether all of this stacks up given your experiences?

18 December 2014

Via email – Ian Lawrence, General Secretary, Napo

Dear Ian,

Thank you for your letter, and email from Mike McClelland in which you raise concerns around the stability of ICT systems used by probation staff.

I would like to start by correcting your press release today suggesting that IT has failed this week - it has not. We are satisfied of the stability of the ICT system and the ability of the system to support probation staff in their work. The localised and limited slow running identified immediately following the transition have been closely monitored and a technical solution has been identified for deployment should they create other than localised and manageable issues. Throughout the roll out of the TR reforms a clear ICT programme and plan has been in place. We remain on track with delivery of the programme and the changes have been clearly communicated to staff throughout. The further changes planned for January next year have always been part of this plan.

Whilst we are aware that there have been issues with changes to the ICT systems in advance of the changes last weekend, these have not been systemic and workarounds have been put in place where required to ensure the continuity of business operations. With any major ICT change you would expect issues to occur which need to be addressed, and to date there have been remarkably few issues which have occurred as a result of the Transition State 2 (TS2) ICT activity and certainly less than any organisation would expect in a change of this size.

Ahead of the ICT activity which took place between 11 – 14 December clear instructions were issued to all staff through a number of channels alerting them to the changes and the need to ensure that contingency was put in place locally. This included information in the TR Programme bulletin for cascade to staff over a month in advance of the planned activity, and a range of communications activity including via the Bulletin, ICT managers (Emails, events and teleconferences), EPIC updates and through pop-ups for OMNI users. Communications made absolutely clear the outage times for nDelius, including that work would be lost if staff logged on during the outage period.

The TS2 ICT activity over the weekend progressed well with only 1 severity 3 incident and 2 severity 4 incidents (the lowest level of severity) occurring. Incident rating is an integral and normal part of any such transition and provided these are understood and properly managed – as has been the case here – they need not preclude progress. As you identify, revised workarounds documents have been issued to staff containing simple ways to deal with a small number of issues identified by some staff since the application has been made live. As part of the key decision point process we operationally satisfied ourselves that the workarounds were manageable as part of assuring the decision to proceed with rolling out the changes. This is entirely normal when major system changes are implemented.

You also identify in your letter concerns around live testing of ICT changes relating to operation of the Offender Rehabilitation Act (ORA) 2014 and Through the Gate (TTG). We do not plan to commence the ORA 2014 until service transition on 1 February, and TTG will not commence until 12 weeks after transition.

In November this year user acceptance testing was conducted with staff from across the probation system to ensure that the changes rolled out as part of TS2 would have the appropriate functionality to support users. The large majority of the functionality that will support the changes resulting from commencement of the ORA (2014) and TTG has already been introduced so staff can begin to familiarise themselves with it, although without the data that will be generated from the ORA and TTG going live it is not possible to “test” this functionality in the live environment as you suggest, nor would this represent good practice. This is why we conducted user acceptance testing in November.

I hope this has addressed your concerns.

Yours sincerely
Colin Allars
Director Probation

Cc: Ben Priestly UNISON
David Walton GMB SCOOP
CRC Bidders

A 0% pay offer - someone's having a laugh"

Safe to say it won't be Napo or Unison members, as we at last received the anticipated, derisory, and depressingly insulting 2014 pay offer.

We will be briefing you in detail after the Christmas break but we had no problem in signalling agreement with Unison that this will be the catalyst for another National Dispute which presumably the CRC Bidders will not have factored in to their calculations.

0% then to 'a workforce who has worked very hard to get us to where we are with TR' (Chris Grayling). 0% to an already low paid (by comparison with other professions) yet highly skilled group of people who make a real difference to society, and 0% on top of the 5 year pay freeze that public servants have endured throughout the tenure of this sanctimonious apology of a Government that awards itself what it wants when it wants.

A time to reflect

In a world where unspeakable violence is regularly waged by those who seek to use the innocent as a means of fermenting division and hatred, and where the state and the many sinister multi-nationals seem determined to eliminate the right of ordinary working people to exercise their fundamental entitlement to stand up for themselves and their colleagues, it seems as good a time as any to remind ourselves of why we joined a trade union.

As the late great Tony Benn often said, its always been about struggle. Joining a union because it tries to do something for its members, simply because it is run by its members. One that seeks to present a united position to defend our interests, and those of people who share our values elsewhere but whose voices may not be as strong, or who are forbidden to speak out on pain of death or serious injury against injustice and inequality. If these were the only reasons to join a trade union, then in my book they would be more than enough.

Napo members this year have shown there are plenty more reasons. Nobody can claim the conditions that gave rise to the formation of the union movement in the late 1800's is in any way comparable to what exists in Britain now; but one thing has never changed, and that is the need for collectivism in the face of adversity which is what has kept us together during another tough year for our members. One which has seen the probation profession rent asunder by the ideologues who know nothing about you and even less about what you do and why you do it, and those who lamentably did their bidding without so much as a whimper.

Because of all this, Napo members face an even more uncertain future in 2015. My message to you all, and those who might be considering joining us, is straightforward. I hope it will have the same resonance as the one that will have been voiced by our illustrious predecessors over a hundred years ago. This is your union, it will do its best to help you, but we can't always do everything that you want us to; but we will at all times respect and act upon the directives that we are given by our members through our democratic structures. If you want to make it stronger and more effective in defending your interests then not only stay with it but consider getting involved.

Remember also, as we move towards the close of the year, how this 8000 strong union and professional association has faced the sheer weight of opposition ranged against us. That our members have done so with such fortitude and resolve is something that you can be proud of.

Others who have tried to denigrate and silence us can be disappointed they have not succeeded. They will be hearing a lot more from us in the future.

Whether you have a faith or not, I hope that you are able to enjoy whatever space you can find over the winter holiday to be around people whom you care about, and to remember those who are no longer with us.

My best wishes to all our members and their families for the year ahead.

Ian Lawrence
General Secretary


  1. I would agree with Colin Allars about the IT system: it hasn't been significantly worse in recent days, apart from the odd outage; but that's because it was never a useable system in the first place. We should not be having to use "work arounds"; the system should be designed so that it meets the needs of staff who use it, day in, day out. All of our IT is little more than a system for collecting management information, and next to useless for anything else.

    1. I seriously suspect Ex-Napo member that you are an MOJ or CRC or similar mole.

      Please describe your current work situation and duties that you performed today.

  2. http://m.buryfreepress.co.uk/news/local/latest-news/probation-staff-fears-for-newly-privatised-east-anglian-service-1-6487428

  3. FYI - Big Boys in "The City" (top earners) were given on average £121,000.00 BONUS this Christmas - which for most of them means a 21% increase - not bad ey?? We on the other hand being offered a 0% pay increase (oxymoron surely) is effectively a 2% CUT in our standard of living. Fills you full of Christmas cheer comrades. I have said it before and I will say it again - when is enough enough and when do we stand up and say "Not good enough to the ICT system we have to "work" with and wages that are decreasing year on year? Government has cracked it really reward the Big Boys impoverish the working class and punish the poor. Here's to 2015

    1. in CRC we've been offered an increment backdated to April 2014 and told it'll be in our Feb 15 paypacket. I'm chuffed however those already at the top of the scale get nothing not even 1%. (that's if I read it right) absolutely disgraceful.

      Having said that the scales for PSO/PO are ridiculous there are over ten increments and so to get from the bottom to the top takes forever and the difference equates to nearly a £200 take home pay difference for doing the same job.

    2. So which CRC area is offering the increment?.......Bobbyjoe

    3. Mnnn - I thought we were all still paid by MoJ - as we are not technically "split" yet - but hey ho - watch this space.

    4. More an offer of excrement rather than an increment

    5. Merseyside - to clarify I appreciate those at the top of the scale have more experience but £200 is a huge difference - even people been doing the job 10 yrs aren't even half way up the scale due to the 'freeze'

    6. that's odd, if your CRC have announced they're paying it then NAPO must've accepted it? Anyone clarify?



  5. I think, given tbe crisis in prisons, the TTG stuff will ultimately go the way of Custody Plus.

  6. A 0% "pay offer" . Perhaps I have missed something here but just how does zero, zilch, nada or sweet F.A. equate to an offer ? Perhaps one should not be too surprised at the utter contempt that Grayling and his ilk have for all of us public sector serfs. Still, its not all bad news, they do seem to look after their mates. Osborne decided last year to award one Rupert Harrison, (former Eaton head boy) and "indispensable long term aide" to Osborne, a 19% pay rise, to take his salary from £80,000 to £95,000.

  7. A Seasonal message to Napo Members from Pat Waterman Chair of Napo Greater London Branch


  8. The pay offer email sent out by NOMS is the minimum amount that they are contractually obliged to pay-one point on your scale. My understanding is that the negotiations by NAPO have barely started so by no means agreed. This offer does not include any cost of living negotiation......more spin. Not sure for what purpose though.