Another test of our resolve
A big day for Napo again, as the fully booked WiN (Women in Napo) conference commences in York with a range of excellent speakers on a number of diverse subjects covering probation and the family courts. As you would expect, I have sent greetings and best wishes to our sisters for a successful event and I am sure that the proceedings will be hugely positive and hopefully encourage new activists to step forward.
Later this morning we will be holding an urgent consultative meeting with Napo Reps from the Sodexo CRCs to explore their reaction to the EVR proposals which will be released to all staff very soon. As you may have seen from BR 63/2015 issued yesterday, the Probation Unions are standing fully united against the attempt by Sodexo to vary the terms of the EVR scheme contained in the National Staff Transfer Agreement.
We have been in talks with them to try and unpick the rationale behind their earlier announcement of around 600 job cuts. It has been made very clear to them that an operating model, which is not even fully developed and has yet to be subject to wider scrutiny, simply cannot be relied upon as a reliable driver for cuts of this magnitude. Equally worrying are some of the forecasts that have been reaching us about the expected staffing profiles in certain areas of the Sodexo owned CRCs if the cuts come to fruition, which only heighten the legitimate fears about public safety. All of these ingredients have contrived to create a testing and at times fractious atmosphere for the exchanges that have taken place so far, though I have to mention that Napo/Unison/GMB SCOOP have worked extremely well together on behalf of the members we represent. At times such as these it is worth remembering that we are the only unions with recognition and negotiating rights within the NPS and CRCs and that we speak directly on behalf of our members.
Essentially, the company want to consult directly with staff on their plans but the unions maintain that Sodexo signed a commercial contract in which the National Negotiating Council (NNC) and Staff Transfer Scheme were a component part, and therefore any negotiations need to be held within that context. Of course our position is that the full EVR terms should apply, as it is inequitable that some staff have already left the probation service on a better package than what is being offered. In short we have said that it's a pretty shoddy way to treat with people who now find themselves 'at risk', and have stayed on to help the new providers with the post-share sale transition.
It was always a given that once the CRC contracts were signed off that we would face some major challenges in holding onto the terms of the National Staff Transfer Agreement and that is why we are intending to refer this serious development to the National Negotiating Council of which the CRC employers are constituent members.
The unanswered questions
Following the meeting today we will be issuing as much news as we can to our members within the Sodexo owned CRCs and no doubt we will have a raft of questions from worried members that we will try to answer as soon as we can and wherever possible we will come out to meet with you if requested.
At the root of this whole issue are two key questions to which we are awaiting definitive answers and they go something like this:
How did Sodexo win the contract bid (which by their own admission they predicated on 600c redundancies) and did they reveal to the MoJ that they could not afford to pay for the EVR terms which were clearly part of the deal?
Can anyone seriously believe that Sodexo, one of the richest corporations of its kind on planet Earth really cannot afford to stand by its moral obligations?
Industrial action postponed as ACAS step in
Following a welcome intervention from the mediation service ACAS, Dean Rogers and I were pleased to have been able to contribute to the talks between Unison/NOMS/NNC employers and Napo either side of last weekend.
As you know Unison had planned to strike this week over the 2014/15 pay award which was implemented a few weeks ago, but as is always the case with unions prior to commencing industrial action, their officials were looking to explore all opportunities to avoid this if possible.
We have agreed that ACAS will host discussions over the next 28 days to see what loose ends we can pick up from the 2014/5 negotiations (limited though they were) especially on (non-cost) issues that got stuck in the pre-TR harmonisation talks. We will also be exploring how we can improve upon the existing pay bargaining machinery which because of government imposed pay freezes has been pretty well useless over recent years. The talks will also allow us to review the NNC machinery with a view to making this reflective of the post TR landscape.
We will issue news of all of these discussions as often as we can.