Tuesday, 9 December 2014

The War Goes On

Where do we start in trying to make sense of the news that Napo's legal action against TR has been abandoned? Quite understandably there was an outpouring of anger and incredulity on the blog last night. In essence many contributors are saying they not only feel massively let down, they have lost trust in the union's leadership and it's going to be difficult in my view to see how they can regain it. 

Members are being asked to swallow on trust that we won major concessions from Chris Grayling and the MoJ in terms of an acceptance that TR was risky and that steps would be taken to rectify the situation prior to sale of the CRC's. However, the disgraceful gloating by the MoJ's spin doctor paints a rather different picture, effectively denying there's any problem at all. I have no idea if this hastily-written statement was authorised or not, but its defiant tone will effectively ensure that the war goes on:- 
A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said "Napo made it clear from the start that their goal was to disrupt these essential reforms. They have palpably failed to do so but have ended up running up a large legal bill. We are pleased Napo have backed down before they could waste even more time and money. 
These reforms have been and continue to be carefully managed with a focus on both the safety of the public and our employees. They are essential if we want to bring down the stubbornly high reoffending rates."
Just as the recent communications from the General Secretary have been ill-considered in tone and in my view confirm his unsuitability for the job, whatever transpires from publication of the MoJ's 'undertakings', they clearly seem to fall into the same category as Neville Chamberlain's famous 'note' waved before the camera's in 1939.

As I write this, I simply have no idea why in the end the legal advice to Napo was that there was no case to take before the court, based apparently on as yet unspecified 'undertakings' made by the MoJ, but subsequently rubbished by the MoJ spokeswoman. The whole thing stinks and we need explanations, and fast. TR is either risky, or not. We say it is, they say it isn't. Wasn't this the basis of the legal challenge? 

Meanwhile, I predict that the MoJ statement will prove to have been a very unwise decision indeed and will serve to both escalate the war against TR and change its nature to one of individual action rather than anything union-organised. I'm supported in this view by the following e-mail received early this morning:- 
Hi Jim,

I've been up grinding my teeth since 3:26 am, and thought I would finally finish the email I've wanted to write for ages...

I work in HR, for Xxxxxxxx CRC, and I'm one of the deluded members of staff who have held out hope for the past year and a half that TR would fall through, but now I am left feeling completely demoralised.

Because of my 'back office' role I haven't wanted to comment publicly on your blog, however I read your blog religiously on a daily basis, along with most of my corporate services colleagues. Following the enhanced voluntary redundancy announcement, operational staff in our CRC were in an uproar because they weren't offered the same 'opportunity' as corporate services staff, but believe me, I'd much rather keep my job. I know my role is disposable, and HR is completely replaceable with any ol' outsourced shared services centre, but I completely believe in the good work probation does, and will be genuinely distressed to have to leave.
My job is to support staff, my concern is for staff welfare, and I am seriously worried about you all, especially now. I have been so disappointed by the Senior Management Team who have provided no guidance, support or motivation to employees. In my role I always encourage people to take time off when they are not well, because in the grand scheme of things, work is work, and life is life.
The only possible thing I can envisage now to stall proceedings is the route of 'passive resistance'. It would make my job harder, but if there were mass absences due to work-related stress, then the service would simply not be able to function. You all are irreplaceable - there is no pool of qualified Probation Officers floating about - in an earlier recruitment campaign, we hardly received any response.
I know this course of action may be unlikely, as Probation staff are highly dedicated to their work, however it sends the clearest message (and most people would be able to receive occupational sick pay). Sickness absence in Xxxxxxxx has significantly increased since June, and our sickness levels are the Xth highest.
Thanks so much for maintaining your blog and opening it up as a resource for people to share information about TR - I've completely relied on it for the past year and a half.

Take care of yourself, and best wishes for the future,
I was going to leave it there for now and see what transpires during the course of today, but this has just come in and I think it's worth quoting in full, especially for all you readers down there at Noms HQ:-

There is a lot of silliness being said and a few more reasonable responses to the news. I am told that certain senior NOMS officials find this blog amusing and like nothing better than to quote from it during meetings with Napo officials. The outpouring of unreasoned anger directed against Ian Lawrence and the national officials for acting responsibly in relation to getting the best outcome that was realistically possible in the circumstances is apalling and unjustified. There were undoubtedly good reasons to discontinue the JR not least the prospect of losing. Grayling caved in and basically gave Napo what they were requesting. Abandoning TR was not what the JR was about even though a lot of Napo members thought it was. There are too many robots working flat out to make it work for it to be stopped now. Many of those who are angry have done precious little other than complain.

So Grayling 'caved in' did he.........?


  1. Classic MDB - all you angry lot out there have done naff all but complain whilst Napo have been pro-social modelling Grayling into submission. You ungrateful lot. Here's your subs back.....(sarcasm font not working).

  2. The trade unions are generally weak. It is widely acknowledged amongst economists that one of the factors that can mitigate economic inequality is strong collective bargaining by unions.

    Consider the firefighter's union, once considered strong and well-supported by the public, they are in a long-running industrial dispute over pensions and retirement age and are struggling to make any impact.

    Blaming the Napo leadership for its failure to stop TR appears to take no account of the current imbalance in power between workers and employers.

    Perhaps Napo could have done more to raise members' participation at local levels where activism is weak. Napo, though, is a trade union, not a cargo cult and expectations have been ridiculously high as to what could be achieved through JR. All the main political parties have supported outsourcing and privatisation – there is no ideological opposition to the privatisation of public services, they only differ on delivery models.

    The engagement by Napo members has been poor, even when it came to voting in ballots – the general secretary elected on a turnout under 20%, a 40% vote on pensions, 34% in an indicative ballot and then only 46% for the strike ballot proper – when the wolf was at the door. So many did not even have the motivation to cross a ballot and return the SAE. However, they crossed the picket lines in hordes, like shopper on a Black Friday. This from a workforce, where you would expect a degree of political nous with the imagination to see that as individuals they would see their terms and conditions eroded in the years ahead. To blame the Napo leadership for this degree of apathy is a denial of the uncomfortable facts on the ground.

    I am not an apologist for Napo. I think there should be an independent assessment of its strategy and governance over the last few years. What, if anything, can be done to improve local organisation at branch level and promote stronger engagement with branches from the centre. A bit more legal support to branches would be a starter particularly as there are going to be increasing numbers of members in need of such advice. Too often Napo's custodians can be tight-fisted and disconnected when it comes to legal support, expecting too much from local reps.

    The fight to stop TR is over, the focus and resources, in my view, now need to be on workers' welfare and representation to mitigate the effects of TR and the inevitable managerial bullying that awaits.

    1. I absolutely disagree that the fight is over - TR will fail - every attempt to delay or stop it should continue the next venue is probably Parliament, I have had encouragement via Twitter from one MP who has been a strong consistent supporter, namely Sarah Champion from Rotherham.

      As we type urgent questions to Sec of State are being drafted , hopefully he can be drawn out on the details of his back down and commitment to put safety measures in place.

      Meanwhile lets not forget Grayling is firstly a propagandist and that the Government is led by another propagandist. We need to get a strong consistent message out about front line probation being for public protection and that the practitioners are due media, governmental and political support to enhance that public protection, not tear it to shreds as TR does.

    2. Brilliant Netnipper. As a local branch official & activist agree 100%.many a time sat waiting for branch meetings to be quorate, watched members walk past me on picket duty..some members demand action over high workloadsand the next week I see them doing locum reports for money using their A/L. Often im left exasperated by members apathy & want to through my hand in. I dont because I believe we need to fight because if we dont they win.

    3. Just heard that if no increase in probation institute sign up it could fold- there's another reason not to join graylings PI

  3. The torture never stops... from the published testgates 4/5:

    "ICT Delivery Confidence
    • Overall Delivery confidence remains at Amber, reflecting various challenges across workstreams. Additional governance boards have been
    established and plans are in place to manage Go-Live risks
    • n-Delius: Activity remains on track for Go-Live on 16 December with planned milestones met. Testboards have been put in place to manage
    this critical activity.
    • OASys: Remains on track for Go-Live on 8 December. User Acceptance Testing [UAT] has completed with no outstanding defects.
    • Data Archiving: Work is currently underway to plan and coordinate activity and resources. Risk of delivery due to resource availability and volume of work for CRCs.
    • RSR/RoSH: RSR tool is live and RoSH has successfully passed UAT with a two week pilot now in train.Placeholder for ICT Progress Diagram"

    1. Practitioners need to respond to that and the TR sell off needs to be delayed until nDelius has gone live on 16/12 and sufficient time passed to be confident it is working and improves public protection better than assessment by a qualified and/or experienced probation professional with nothing more than access to probation, prosecution, prison, and other criminal justice court records and a pen and blank sheet of paper.

      That should be the test!

  4. For those wanting to read testgates 4 & 5, try here:


  5. I think the HR advice is sound and will rapidly bring MOJ round in a way that all previous action has been unable to. If your job is making you ill see your GP take guidance and take sick leave if you are too ill for work. Protect your health.

  6. last night- retired but still gut wrenchingly disappointed about the apparent abandonment of JR - I wrote an angry, but empathetic comment, to despairing staff who understandably feel that their hopes have been kicked into the gutter. I also read of the mutinous anger raging from many of the comments, with a call to leave NAPO.

    And then I read Ian's comment on the NAPO blog, hidden under an item about his great trip up north, and I thought again. I think there is more to come, which NAPO cannot yet reveal because of legal constraints.

    Grayling may have seemingly pulled a crafty coup out of the bag, but his plans to ensure the privatisation is safe, has not yet happened. We have not yet heard the opinions of the buyers. We have not heard what Grayling intends to do and how long it will take. And even after the sell-off, the formal commencement of TR is not due to start until Feb.

    Whatever plans NAPO may have, they will need money. So please, hold fire for a little while longer. I know Jim is seeking to make sense of all this and will let us know as soon as possible. Don't let the MOJ think we are a band of raving looneys. And what would sporadic striking achieve? Too many staff could not afford to lose a couple of weeks salary, and the general public will just be bemused, as they haven't a clue what we do anyway.

    Hold your head up, keep your dignity, remember ' revenge is best served cold', and listen to Jimmy Nail singing 'Big River'- the most inspiring song I have ever heard - 'if you think there's a bond between our future and our past, then try to hold on to what we had.. and everything they tried so hard to kill, we will rebuild... this is a big river and the river will rise again'.

    That river is the Tyne, and I am proud to live on its banks. My father worked at Palmer's shipyard, one of the biggest in the country, shut down by the govt in the 30's, and my father-in-law was a miner, made redundant by Thatcher. Tyneside has been battered but we have risen again - different but still rising!

    Good luck to you all. I might not physically be with the Service any more, but my heart will never leave it, whatever form it may morph into..

  7. Jimmy Nail - Big River - Live


  8. I was raging and gutted yesterday and that is how so many of us felt. I personally think the main mistake of teh last couple of days was probably not the withdrawing from the JR (dissappointing as that is) but in fact the way in which that decision was communicated. Strategically very dodgy to not take great care in how this is communicated to membership and to public. There is more fight to come, I just hope we can rally ourselves and our colleagues

    1. I agree,- it might have had to have been said, but it came across in a rather self-congratulatory manner, waving a victory flag, with apparent little thought to the staff who were at fever pitch and primed for an intensive couple of days. Some subtle empathy might just have softened the blow.

    2. Absolutely Su! I understand (from having spoken to a National Officer)that there are legal constraints on what can be said in which case Ithink a very simple statement would have been the best course of action rather than some very odd turns of phrase and prefacing account of JR situation by references to branch meet in Northumbria that just didn't "fit".

  9. I think we should lobby the Green Party to put returning the Probation Service to the public sector in to their manifesto ; I wish the SNP were south of the boarder they might do it too. Labour would be the ideal party to reverse TR but they are too far to the right at the moment.

    This is going to be a long war we must get more probation staff to fight it. Could NAPO book a series of events in big cities and invite all probation staff to attend, lets radicalise them I would take part.


  10. NAPO has convened at National Branch Chairs meeting for 18 December which I feel is too close to Christmas, this was more urgent than that!

  11. NAPO Officials and Officers are a fuckin' disgrace. I read the blurb yesterday and responded on the napo info email suggesting in clear terms that they all resign. I've just read today's blurb - soz we can't tell you all the details - it's highly confidential and all that and we'd be in right hot water if we divulged anything but after Friday transparency will rule again. Bollocks! This is all designed to subdue the masses and buy time for our beleaguered hierarchy! Shocking shoddy and shite! As I've said before I resigned from Probation because I was not prepared (as a manager) to participate in setting up organisations that were doing away with Probation as we know it. I was not prepared to float that somehow it would all be better and that if we just stick together it'll be fine. Y'know if you're involved you can ameliorate the worst excesses of Grayling's grand plan. It's all balls and NAPO's leadership has evidently gone along with it. What we've heard so far is at best placation and sop.

    NAPO leadership:- Graylng we're going to fight you to the bitter end!
    Grayling Hello NAPO like I'm really scared! Give up immediately and I just might not hit you as hard as I undoubtedly can!
    NAPO leadership :- OK we give up sir!
    Grayling:- Right I'll press on then on and because you've annoyed me it will in fact be worse - and there's nothing you can do about it!

    I wonder what's been offered and to whom?

  12. TR will fail, and is already failing, as anyone who continues to work in the field can attest. By the end of this week we lose dual access in the majority of cases, so all those mistakes in allocation , and oh my there are SO many mistakes in allocation, cases , people, being shunted to and fro...all those mistakes can't be rectified. We won't even know what we are missing half the time. And I'm sorry, but unless you actually have to do the day job, as a PO or possibly SPO, you haven't got a clue just how much of a mess all this is. And any idea that this can all be massaged away with spin, CRC managers attempting to blame NPS for all the things that go wrong...ha ha ha. You ain't seen nothing yet. My concern is that this will end up with people being hurt. Spartacus.

  13. I have heard the issue of dual access may be one of the concessions made. Watch this space.

  14. Make no mistake, dual access will be removed. It's been delayed but it will go in January

    1. That fact has now been confirmed, no dual access going forward from January 2015. God help us all, especially the public as they will not have been served well in terms of public protection.

    2. What if you work with NPS and CRC offenders?

    3. dual access is being refused but in exceptional cases the odd member of staff will have separate log-ons for each organisation. I also understand that for eg Programmes who need dual access they wont be able to see all the offender records but just those relevant to the 'programme'.