As reported in Justice News (29th January), consultations with Working Links and the employers continued last Friday (29th Jan.) at a cross-CRC union meeting. From a union perspective, this meeting was far from satisfactory. As reported in Edition 1 of this newsletter, we had been promised detailed written proposals (a Consultation Document) early in the New Year. In the event, and this was not reported in Justice News, this documentation was only sent out to some of us, less than 48 hours before the meeting. Even then, it was incomplete and for a variety of reasons most if not all union reps at the meeting had not even had sight of the consultation pack before the meeting started. We were not therefore in any position to respond in a considered way to the information. This meeting could not be described as either timely or meaningful. The agenda for the meeting was set by Working Links, despite the fact that we had submitted agenda items – more on this later.
The Working Links Way
Thus it is only since the meeting that we have been able to digest the full impact and our worst fears are confirmed in respect of the implications of the ‘Working Links Way’ of operating into the future. Utilising the BRAG system, it will mean that low risk (Green rating) service users will receive little or no face to face contact with those staff actually managing their orders. They will be subject to a group induction and thereafter, the ‘channels of delivery’ will consist of a combination of remote interaction/media (? – we take this to mean phone conversations with staff in Operational Hubs), selfdelivery (? DIY?) and attendance at community hubs utilising the Working Links Directory of Services which we have not yet seen. In our view, there is a very significant risk that, in the long run, this model will prove counter-productive in terms of the throughput of work into the CRCs as the NPS and more importantly the courts come to understand that the level of service provided to low risk offenders involves little or no face to face contact with case managers. It is not clear how this model will impact on UPW requirements but here too remote case management is promoted and again we have concerns about how this will operate.
We have previously reported that the worst case scenario would see nearly 600 staff across the three CRCs losing their livelihoods. On Friday, the employers reported that the anticipated loss of staff was now nearer 500.
Enhanced voluntary redundancy terms
There is nothing in the information pack to confirm that there is still an intention on the part of Working Links to offer the Enhanced Voluntary Redundancy terms to all staff at risk of redundancy through the four phases of implementation over 15 months to the Spring of 2017. This is disappointing in light of their previously reported intentions. The unions will be challenging WL over this, but the fear is that, certainly in the latter phases, these terms will no longer be offered.
Early phases of implementation
Corporate support staff are already subject to redundancy and the next part of this plan is the testing and roll-out of Operational Hubs. The first of these is already indicated in the latest Justice News. Through the somewhat oddly named ‘proof of concept’, WL are indicating that these will be piloted but there is little or no evidence that these pilots will be reviewed and analysed prior to roll-out. This will be linked to radical re-organisation of admin. staff as reported in our last edition. The promised briefing to staff to clarify the position (and apologise for mis-communication) before Christmas was never issued and the only reference that we can find is in Justice News (11 January) and the following statement: “ We are consulting with the unions about the proposed future changes and we have already adapted our approach in line with some of their feedback. In particular around the timelines for the proposed offer we had originally scheduled for VR for administrators, to allow us to share further information on our proposals.” Administrators may anticipate further communication from the three employers imminently.
Organisational Change Policy
Napo has tabled this draft policy with Working Links and we await their response. The intention is to bring a transparent and understandable structure to bear on the organisational changes and their impact on staff – redundancy, alternative employment, job matching etc.
Who is who and what is what?
Again as reported in our last edition, we continue to be concerned about the lack of clarity as regards the identities particularly of the two SW CRCs (BGSW & DDC) and who works for which – in senior management. This problem does not afflict Wales CRC although across all three CRCs we are also exercised by the blurring of boundaries as between the CRCs (supposedly independent companies) and Working Links itself. Working Links and senior managers seem both reluctant to acknowledge that this is causing confusion and also reluctant to engage with the unions over our concerns. We tabled it as an agenda item last Friday – ignored.
At our forum meeting on 15th December, as well as both prior to it and subsequently confirmed in writing, we requested a list of information (see last edition – items 1-14). Last Friday we received, for the first time, some more meaningful but still incomplete S.188 information. We await a full information set here together with information under items 3,4,5,6 & 14. We also await the WAV workshop. All was promised at our December meeting.
Series of meetings
Further consultation meetings with the employers were proposed on a monthly basis. This was towards the end of the Consultation Document with which we were presented on Friday and the item was never reached in our discussions. However the next meeting might be anticipated later this month.
Commitment to meeting legal requirements over consultations
Working Links and the three employers are indicating that they will meet the requirement under the Trade Union & Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992. Essentially this is around meaningful consultation and minimum periods for consultation. We imagine that the requirement over minimum periods will be met, but consultations need to get a whole lot more meaningful than last Friday.
Members are asked to feed back to us on their thoughts over the innovative proposals from Working Links - The ‘Working Links Way’ – please respond via your local branch and staffside reps so we can in turn feed back collectively to Working Links on the views of our members. If you want to know more about the support and advice we provide to members go to www.napo.org.uk, call Napo on 0207 223 4887 or email your link national official Mike McClelland – firstname.lastname@example.org