Thursday, 10 March 2016

Not Fit For Purpose

This blog has often been accused of being anti-Napo. However, discerning regular readers will be aware that actually it's tried to be supportive, but also robust in drawing attention to humbug, misinformation, poor judgement, ineffective accountability, structural short-comings, mediocre communication and lack-lustre leadership. At the top the union has proved comprehensively unable to adapt and respond appropriately and effectively to the dramatically changed probation environment brought about by TR. 

The latest information regarding the Job Evaluation exercise merely goes to confirm this state of affairs. What's even more worrying is the complete lack of any insight into any of this and indeed those at the top seem completely oblivious for the urgent need for change that many of the members can see. As far as they are concerned it's 'business as usual' and indeed are suggesting there may be no need for any elections 'in order to save money'.

It will come as no surprise to the membership that money is indeed a major issue due to a significant fall in membership. It's not rocket science and was to be expected due to staff leaving in droves, with more to go as redundancies kick-in within the CRC's, added to those in NPS not transferring over to Direct Debit as a result of the 'check-off' facility being withdrawn. Anyone with an ounce of assessment ability could see there was an urgent need for action and at the very least a staffing review that responded to a fall in membership.

It's been painfully obvious to many for months that the union suffers from a leadership vacuum - the joint chairs are all but invisible at a time when people are desperately seeking inspiration, reassurance or just communication! It seems incredible, but in a modern world where the ability to communicate quickly and easily via the internet and new media is ubiquitous, for much of the time members hear absolutely nothing and that's precisely why this blog has spawned the life it has. It's why staff are increasingly turning to Facebook as a replacement for the Napo members forum so successfully marginalised and rendered moribund by those at Chivalry Road.

Actually it's probably worth dwelling on the fate of the 'family silver' because it can only be a matter of time before that has to go in the absence of an ability to balance the books by a sensible staffing review. 

The more I think about things, the more I've come to the conclusion that, to quote a famous phrase, our union is simply no longer fit for purpose. This hasn't happened overnight, but over many years and as a result of a failure to notice and adapt to the fundamental structural changes within the profession. Qualified Probation Officers are increasingly in the minority amongst the workforce and I really don't see how much longer Cafcass can be kept happily within the fold? 

I want to make one thing very plain. Everything I've said here should in no way be interpreted as an assault or even criticism of local branch officers and executives who I feel have suffered a great disservice by those at the top. I've heard nothing but praise for the tireless work put in by local Napo officers in representing colleagues at very difficult times in their careers and I speak from personal experience in this regard. 

I've said many times before that I joined Napo at the very beginning of my career and I still feel that it's the 'right' thing to do, but I'm heartily sick of what's going on and not going on at the top and feel I must speak up in the interests of trying to salvage something from the mess that's enveloping us on a daily basis. There has got to be change and the membership have got to start making their views known before it's too late.           

24 comments:

  1. How can we put a motion in to have Ian Lawrence removed from post?

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  2. It is probably true that Napo is not fit for purpose, but I think that's more about changes in the outside world rather than any great change in how Napo goes about its business. Napo identifies itself with three core functions: as a trade union, professional association and being a campaigning organisation; I think it has always been more sure-footed on the latter two functions and weaker on being a trade union. Many members who may, for whatever reasons, be antagonistic to the role of trade unions have paid their subs and felt more comfortable being part of a professional association. Most workers would turn to their line managers rather then their union reps if they had a problem. Maybe that's because the perception was one of all being on the same side irrespective of grade or status.

    Until the 1990s Napo was never placed under much pressure to flex any industrial muscle. Relationships with the employers were pretty much consensual and constructive. They were on the same wavelength. Probation was a career.

    It was New Labour's job creation programmes in the pubic services that began the shifting of role boundaries and deprofessionalisation – from teaching assistants to probation service officers. But the money was pouring in, wages rose and contestability was some way from full blown privatisation and no one imagined that loadsamoney and greed would end in austerity.

    The probation workplace though unionised was never a militant place and so a bullying managerialism soon overcame the professional ethic whose autonomy was swept aside as everyone was forced to knuckle down to a target-driven, performance-led environment, with league tables and stars for the best in class. Many didn't like it, but there wasn't much that earlier Napo leaderships could do about it.

    Post-debacle Napo is in the firing line. The leadership did make some poor decisions on TR. Many members were either half-hearted or indifferent to resisting TR, perhaps assuming they would adapt to it as they had other changes and threats. Unfortunately, for ideological reasons, it has turned out worse than anyone imagined and no one feel safe, there is no job security and probation careers belong to a bygone age. Now everyone knows they are just an asset to be sweated or discarded. I would suggest that no general secretary, not even one on a white charger, would make much difference. The probation workforce had its chance to fight, to stand in solidarity. It didn't, it was defeated and now I think it is too late.

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    1. Excellent comment which I whole heartedly agree with not sure where we can go from here

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    2. Too late for what? Employees are still here being treated poorly and they need a voice - surely this blog tells you that. We are where we are with TR but there is still a lot more to come. We had strong union reptesentation in our Trust, but however hard we try we can't do it without a strong leader. We need that from Napo and it's not too late.

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    3. Let us not forget Netnipper's is just an opinion, not fact, despite the authority in its delivery.

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    4. I get fed up with the sanctimonious and Nipper knows he is a drag and a boring defeatist talk is always a downer. He is wrong of course . Unification join Napo all take action give Ian Lawrence the charger he needs to call on staff to take some renewed action. It will be a dam site better than watching the floods of tears that so many of the staff are sitting offices broken. Conned of the lies and misguided pedalling support for TR so many managers engaged. A few back peddlers now . Cowards the lot of them. We can make changes we have to resolve ourselves to do so. To give in again will mean massive pay cuts and harder work coming soon and still we have the tools we just need a new chair with real capacity please. They will need to manage the errant GS and ensure a single direction that of trade unionism nothing else as there are no professional boundaries anymore. Ask any court team PSO who is doing the work. Look on carefully they are doing what was PO work for 10 less and you will realise all NPS will soon be PSOs on the same reduced pay the VLOs is the just the start.

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  3. Its never too late to go down fighting and its far more fun than living on your knees :)

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  4. I personally agree wholeheartedly with Netnipper's analysis, having worked in probation for over three decades and experienced the changes. I also have prior experience of national Napo committee work a number of years ago, recent strike action and the demise of pretty much any sense of professional autonomy. The game has changed.

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  5. 'The typical activities of a trade union include providing assistance and services to their members, collectively bargaining for better pay and conditions for all workers, working to improve the quality of public services, political campaigning and industrial action'.
    That said this new world feels very different.
    Better pay conditions ? Not seen them.
    Quality to our public/private services. Not seen them either.
    Industrial action. Not been out in the rain yet.
    So why are we in a Union? Are the staff in our workforces who are not in any Union worse off than their colleagues who are in a Union when facing the prospect of redundency and 1-1 meetings. Its all change now and whilst I agree with other comments that there was a strong Union presence in Trusts this game plan has changed a long time ago. Not striking because you didn't want to loose a days pay back in the pre TR day shows how much staff really felt about fighting and their futures.
    Time to move on and have a rethink because we are not seeing much being done by any of the Unions and if it is then at least they could put pen to paper and tell us about it . We are not mind readers !!!

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  6. Almost 30 years of paying subs ended last year when I walked. In all that time I had little personal benefit beyond one excellent period of well-informed advice. A later moment of need was not met, but by then the game was changing & being played by different rules, plus the individual who claimed they were there to represent me was a mysogynist pig. I never resented paying the subs, but was always very aware of others who rode on the coattails of paid up members.

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    1. I knew NAPO subs were wasted when Lawrence attend a 3 day training event I was on. He did not engage members and was more interested in the 3 course dinner being served. He is a fraud more. Why pay your hard earned cash to these clowns. Trust me you're better off out of napo than staying in.

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  7. What has NAPO done for us? Well, they negotiated the following:

    less holidays
    An unfair and totally ludicrous pay scale - 22 years to reach the top!
    Using the incremental point as a negotiating tool when in fact it is an automatic contractual entitlement
    Finally, loss of employment

    Backed out of the review of the TR bomb.

    All you members if NAPO give this some thought. What have you got fir your money?

    Let them know how you feel. Vote with feet. Join Prospect who gave an excellent track record in SUPPORTING their members and fighting their corner

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  8. Yes finally. People who feel like me. I hate how napo has conned me out of so much money. Napo has done nothing for me and my colleague friends. We've an inept leadership and I hope they all go. Napo stinks with this mob at the helm. C

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  9. Probation Officer10 March 2016 at 23:21

    Napo is not fit for purpose and I don't know what it can realistically do to change. If I was to place Napo on the cycle of change it would be at pre-contemplation. Local reps are generally good but it is a failed union which has not protected workers terms and conditions. It fails to acknowledge this and makes no concerted effort to earn member support. It has only lasted this long since TR due to the absence of an alternative 'probation union'.

    I remember when nearly every probation colleague I knew was a Napo member, but now hardly any are. I wonder how Napo would respond if every member since the TR split onwards wrote to it for a refund.

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    1. Probation Officer10 March 2016 at 23:27

      That should read "I wonder how Napo would respond if every member since the TR split onwards left Napo AND THEN wrote to it for a refund!"

      #NapoRefund

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  10. Step down Ian and allow our union to survive

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  11. "Less holidays." I recall the time when the vote for fewer days leave was being discussed at branch meetings; the deal being a relative hike in pay for the loss of around three days annual leave. I argued against voting for the pay offer believing that, as leave equates to pay, this would be a loss in pay in the long-term. I voted against accepting the offer but the vote was overwhelmingly in favour. Short-term gain for long-term loss. Any union is only the sum of its members. People had their gold lense glasses on then as they did when deciding not to strike.

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    1. As someone on the top of the pay scale, I remember being persuaded to vote in favour because the argument was it would avoid job losses and allow those colleagues on lower pay scales to move up and close the gap. Have I remembered correctly?

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    2. I think it was more along the lines of 'you won't get anything unless you surrender some annual leave, its all we've got left to negotiate with.' Its still only a fraction of MP's leave entitlement.

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    3. It was also sold on the promise of shortening the pay scale

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  12. I don't remember the job loss issue at all as an argument for the vote in favour. The argument was that either one or two bands at the bottom of the scale would go. At the same time,there would be some lump sum type deal and a was going in one's pay packet for the month of the settlement. Hence, the gold lenses.

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  13. Soz "a wad" not was

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  14. Well it didn't do much to avoid job lossess did it !!!
    The whole debate here is around the credability of the Unions and is there any point in being in any of them. Picking up on certain issues dont help staff who are facing redundency of any grade. There is anger Jim. Anger of being led up garden paths by Unions and then having the gate firmly closed behind them when things get tough.
    A pay packet is only as good as the job your in. Look around us, we work hard, we do what we are good at but still joe public are non the wiser about our profession being split into peices.
    The Unions never politically campaigned for us thats why staff are now seriously looking at their futures through different gold lenses and now questioning whether to go through this alone without loosing more money.

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  15. Remember the pay modernisation that was negotiated, this was SUPPOSED to reduce the Band 4 pay scale down to 7 years. We got a lump sum then the following years the 'automatic' increments were used as a 'salary increase', thus increasing the pay scale to 22 years. Ludicrous and a breach of contract. But again, the union have gone along with pay whilst taking our £25 per month. Mmmm.

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