Napo vs the Civil Service?
"You see, in this world there's two kinds of people, my friend: Those with loaded guns and those who dig."
For a while now I've been thinking about this subject needing a bit of attention. I'm just going to jump in and say it to get it off my chest.
I'm a probation officer and have been with Napo since I started. The problem is that I don't think Napo represent me any more, and I don't believe it's even able to represent me anymore. Before the attacking comments from the technical know-it-all's and die-hard unionists strike me down I'm going to try to elaborate on this. I'm no expert on unions and it may be that I'm saying what many people are thinking. I may be out of line, I may be thinking this due to frustration, anxiety and fear, but I am thinking it.
Let's start with TR as its no use dragging up too much of the past. Napo failed to stop TR and as a result we've been split into two sides, NPS and CRC's. Napo failed to secure a better EVR deal for probation staff in CRC's and so 600 staff are waiting to be shafted with severance payments. As a result many have opted for severance and most of the staff left will probably face compulsory redundancies. There's talk of a strike but nobody can really believe it'll happen, and what's the point striking when the irreversible damage has already been done. Napo has proved it can't or won't fight Sodexo, and can't or won't get the MoJ to intervene either.
I wonder what's going to be the Napo response when all the other CRC's announce restructuring and redundancies too? According to 'Man down the pub' there hasn't and won't be Napo-supported employment tribunals against CRC's because Napo is saving its bank balance for its inner circle down at Napo HQ. Of course I can believe that, it's not like Napo has been anything more than a weak pulse over the last few years.
Over on my side of the divide, the NPS, we really don't know what's coming yet. We've had the civil service code and associated disciplinary policies, also the new targets, a wave of new directives and Probation Instructions, the rumours of directing PO's to prisons, reductions in expenses and mileage rates, rising workloads, threats of justice cuts, and not to leave out the oppressive office cultures, the power-mad managers, the problems with shared-services, etc, etc, etc.
In my neck of the woods we're all concerned that more is being expected for less, and the work is increasing and unnaturally soaked in red-tape, risk management and public protection tick-box procedures. They want goodwill, top quality work and best practice, but from staff who have been used as work horses and set to be pastured and put-down when the work is done. Anyone else in the NPS hearing JFDI quite a lot lately?
So my question is whether Napo can hack-it in the current set up? What has Napo done for the NPS since the split? I mean, Napo has failed big time and yet many of us still pay to be members. In comparison to the bigger unions, including Unison, our Napo is a small fish in a big pond - a small-hitter that seems to charge the highest subscriptions. More so, because Napo is so tiny it has very little weight to bargain and negotiate with the MoJ, and I'm not aware that it even has any bargaining power or rights with the MoJ or Civil Service. This bargaining ability and lack of credibility is not going to improve because probation is a small agency with a small member/staff base, and was made even smaller by TR. I'm not sure how many staff the NPS has, but whatever it is will be insignificant to the existing 400,000+ staff in the Civil Service.
While I was writing this 'Man down the pub' frowned and told me to find a bigger and better union that already successfully represents large numbers of civil service staff and associated professions. If Napo had been smarter it would have created the fallback position to be a professional association for probation. They must be kicking themselves at Napo HQ for handing that role to the Probation Institute which is despised of by most I speak to.
I think now is the time we need to know in plain terms how Napo intends to protect our rights, terms and conditions now we're the NPS and civil servants. It needs to come clean about its place in representing NPS staff and be honest about its limitations. If it can't help us then we need to be looking for suitable alternatives, and for the unions that will best represent us individually as probation officers and civil servants, and collectively as a profession.
A quick read of Wikipedia lists the following (and some are less than £15 a month).
Napo - 9000 members (really?)
Prison Officers Association - (POA) 37,000 members - I doubt we can join this one
Prospect - 118,000 members
Public and Commercial Union (PCS) - 262,000 members
Unison - 1.3 million members
Unite the Union - 1.4 million members
Final thought: Probation has always been the poor relation of the CJS. Without an effective union to represent us we're going to be forced to sit at the 'back of the bus' and will remain in the economy class of the Civil Service. I doubt there're many of us that want to go unprotected in the NPS without having Union representation for the unexpected events that may pit us against our MoJ and government worshipping masters. We need a strong Union for when the new bosses move the goalposts just as we're currently witnessing in the CRC's. Without bargaining power against the Civil Service and MoJ, Napo is effectively firing blanks. Unless I've got it all wrong, I think we'll be smart to be moving on.