Saturday, 9 April 2016

Guest Blog 51

Napo - The jig is up!

For anyone relying on Napo to step in and save probation, forget it. I was considering rejoining Napo and was even penning a supportive guest blog here. I was going to say "Napo is ours, support it". I was going to compare it to a failing school or football team and argue that it's our duty to support it back to full strength. I was going to say Napo doesn't belong to Ian Lawrence & Co, it belongs to us the probation workers. I was going to say let's all rejoin Napo, a staff led recruitment drive. I was going to say let us then fill the Napo meetings and rallies at all levels, and return to the old days when Napo membership was an expectation for all staff. I was going to say that if we did this then when Napo is full we can demand a change in leadership, demand transparency and force Napo to go into battle with the NPS and CRC's. We may not be able to reverse TR, but a strong union could slow the changes and make it very difficult for the Ministry of Justice and its privateer buddies.

It's not just Ian's fault?

I'm not going to say any of the above because I've been a member of unions for many years and I cannot understand why Napo hasn't been doing more. The probation service has been decimated and what's left is being crushed into dust. Instead of a strong union defending our profession we've had a campaign comparable to a soggy biscuit and everything has been lost (even the kitchen sink is broken in our office!). I know it's not all down to Napo although I'd like to stop hearing that "a union is only as good as its members". A union is only as good as those leading it and in our union's case the leadership is bad, the entire leadership that is. I don't blame Ian Lawrence for being the wrong man for the job because I think most would have struggled to lead Napo in the face of the TR extinction event. As a team the leadership seems to have ranged from being in disarray to consistently failing to hit the mark, so they're all culpable.

I won't rake up all the past mistakes and own goals by Napo. The branch chairs and local reps restrained by Napo HQ, the chest-beating of Ian Lawrence, the payout to Jonathon Ledger, the invisible press officer, the birthday cake to Chris Grayling, the judicial review u-turn, the lack of social media, 'Fletcher-gate', 'Rendon-gate', selling Chivalry Road, etc. Despite all of this, Napo retains negotiating rights for probation so there is much it could still do to slow further changes and even turn things around. This is why I can't understand why it hasn't implemented better measures to increase membership such as half price subscriptions, automatic registration with the Probation Institute (also worthless) or some other sort of "what's in it for me" type reward.

The bottom line!

The reality is that, whether we like it or not, a fully fledged and active union is our only way to fight the impact of TR. It is our only way to battle with the MoJ, Sodexo, Working Links and MTCNovo. Alas though, this is wishful thinking as I've just read Napo's new glossy NQ magazine which is more evidence to me that Napo is worthless. Here are a few excepts;

A deceitful Napo: "I see the future relationship between the elected membership of Napo and its members as NOT being in need of fundamental change." NQ Edition 2, Page 4.

A sad Napo: "In May 2015, Napo's Professional Committee published a critical analysis of the [Sodexo] model , to which we have yet to receive any response from the company" NQ Edition 2, Page 10.

A defeatist Napo: "Most of the work associated with the E3 programme is consultative where the unions are concerned (rather than negotiable)." NQ Edition 2, Page 11.

The only article I found interesting in the entire magazine is Napo's Sarah Friday's article on the findings of Gill Kirton's report on the impact of TR. This described both NPS and CRC as being terrible places to work, which should be totally embarrassing for first world public sector and civil service organisations. This includes high workloads, excessive working hours, stress, and concerns with targets, insecurity, workplace relocation and low morale. It all sounds too familiar but sadly for Napo (and us) the writing on the wall is summed up in the final paragraph. No wonder NQ Edition 2 ends with a half page spread on "switching to direct debit" which is not really the answer. If this means the magazine has been sent to former members that have not renewed their Napo subscription since January 2016? After reading NQ I doubt they will.

"Key to a successful future survival is going to be the ability to find sufficient resources to cover trade union and the professional association side of our work. This will be particularly important if we are able to continue to claim that Napo "is the voice of probation"."

So although it seems the Napo leadership is finally out of the pre-contemplation stage, will it do anything to reach the next stage on the cycle of change? Before you contact Napo HQ for an answer (they rarely respond to minions anyway) let's face it, nobody wants to pay 25 quid a month for less than nothing, especially when we know that under better leadership Napo could be effective. Napo knows this already and if it had any leadership it'd be doing more to give the union back to the members.

Probation Officer
15 years to retire


  1. So what is the answer? I am embarassed to say that having returned to working as a PO following a long 'break' doing other work and family related stuff i have yet to make a decision about joining a union. I was a napo member previously for 10 years and am a firm believer in trade unions. Choice is napo or unison. Do unison really understand what we do? Colleagues of mine seem to have little support when they have had issues! And what of napo? Not very tempting from what i read. I don't think we even have a union rep where i work and it's not something i would want to take on as i feel stressed enough with my own issues never mind other members of staff! I don't know what the answer is and i' m still waiting for a persuasive statement!

    1. Unison did nothing to support strike action you cant join them that is obvious they weakened us and the unison position kep all offices open. they destroyed our action . The spent zero money on supporting napo in the JR and avoided any dispute that may cost them a pound . Napo are broke all but and yet not a contribution from Unison despite that they wont even rent napo a cheaper conference facility. It is probably because they cant stand the GS as most of the people I speak to say hes not appropriately able in the testing we have seen. Still for all the inabilities from the leadership they have tried some things and Unison did nothing . So your choice
      is Hobson's but napo it should be in my view.

  2. I have had close experience of an NHS hospital - much of the negative stuff said about CRCs & NPS applies.

    - - - -

    Patient's equipment alarm sounds - horrible noise, & continues, patient presses nurse call button - response please don't use your call bell - we can hear the machine alarm (patient too ill to protest).

    Later visitor present - machine alarm sounds for several minutes again - nurse call system reluctantly used again - harassed unknown staff member appears, aplogises and goes - saying I will be back in a minute. More than several minutes pass, different staff member appears (foreign with language problems) and sets matters aright after considerable work.

    Visitor speaks - you seem very busy - is the problem too many needy patients or shortage of staff -

    reply - both

    Visitor - I guess that makes staff more likely to leave.

    reply - yes

    Visitor - how often is there a staff shortage?

    reply - always - always (repeated) as he hurries off.

    the public really do care about NHS patients, yet this hospital has been in so called special measures for several years - instead of releasing contingency funds to plug the vacancy problem - Government commits to spending £9 million on public relations campaign to mailshot (I think) English only households in attempt to secure acceptance of Government EU Remain referendum recommendation.

    Meanwhile Probation Folk do not come out collectively and determinedly in the manner of "junior" Doctors who seem to be protesting for us all right now, in the manner of the miners in 1984.

    We are beyond crisis in the public services - I despair for the traditions of probation and am in awe of practitioners who we know are still delivering services for the public to their clients in the manner of that nurse I quote who was working last evening.

    What is to be done? - it will take far more than Blogging and Tweeting and Facebooking?

    I am off to the hospital again now.

  3. Some good commentary but we are hearing he has already surrendered national collective bargaining so the end of napo is obvious.

    1. Sounds like breaking news ? Where's this info come from?

    2. See page 4 of Napo's March News, paragraph,'So, what's different to before'. But the end of national collective bargaining has been on the cards from day 1. Staff will get whatever the market rate is in the region they work.

  4. Yes it probably is. Part of the problem is we are a small ' organisation'. The public don't really know what we do and don't feel it is relevant to them. They understand what junior doctors, gp's and teachers do, even social services to a degree; but probation officers? I think we need to raise our profile in the media. For example there has been alot of publicity about domestic violence recently so why doesn't this include something about the vital work done by probation? If people understood our role in public protection maybe they would care more? Can't we all take action via this blog? Perhaps a statement or petition that we can all sign up to that can be sent to no. 10 and copies to bbc/ other media. If the unions can no longer do anything then we need to take matters into our own hands. A vote of no confidance!

    1. I agree but if our own managers and employees don't care what we do I doubt the public will ? Our admin staff have to cover reception now and have been amazed at what we deal with all day and everyday!

  5. Look around your workplace; we're mostly automatons grinding away through meaningless guff. Unquestioning in fear of the consequences, beholden by debt and an illusion of security or even affluence.
    The majority aren't interested in the union other than as an insurance policy and they seem to think paying subs is enough for the union to function. Even amongst the more active theres little or no commonality or consensus, its hearding sheep.

  6. No-one gives a rat's arse about probation except when probation staff are blamed for the heinous act of some unfortunate, much like social services & children or carers & the elderly/vulnerable. It aint sexy, it aint glamorous but its a vital public service; when its done right its invisible & taken for granted, but heaven help you if there's a problem.

    The CamFamScam is far more newsworthy. Even Labour have been drawn into making Dave more important than he really is. He's simply a posh, spoilt, priveleged boy who's life chances were significantly enhanced by Daddy's wealth, meaning he went to the right school & learned to play by the right set of rules, to grasp every rung of the ladder as if it was his by right, & to believe he is right in every sense.

    Dave doesn't give a rat's arse about probation except when a tragic series of events threatens his own prospects. The same applies to all of his chums. And even if a tragedy occurs that can be undeniably attributed to the TR farce, it will be covered up or deflected or 'spun' in such a way that the truth won't emerge for many years to come.

    The TR battle was lost when NOMS et al made hay while Ledger was distracting himself - and everyone else at (not so) Chivalrous Road. Napo's eye was well and truly off the ball and the cute opportunists at Petty France set their trap. Napo charged blindly into an ambush: "NOMS to the left of them, NOMS to the right of them..." It was a charge of the Lightweight brigade where terms, conditions & careers were cannon-fodder.

  7. I quote one sentence from this Guest Blog: 'I think most would have struggled to lead Napo in the face of the TR extinction event.'

    I think this is true and why it's pointless to keep blaming the Napo leadership, who were not responsible for the demise of old probation.

    Napo, instead of raising expectations with slogans like 'resistance' should have sounded the dirge. There was no groundswell of resistance, the membership was apathetic. It was a union in name but not in character. And without solidarity you lose. There was too much stupid optimism that TR could be defeated and unions get trapped in having to appear to be doing something, spinning hopes. The leadership would have been better employed pointing out how weak they were to do anything, especially negotiating a framework agreement – which only paved the path for the predators.

    The powers of trade unions to influence events, with the rare exceptions, have declined as neo-liberalism has risen.

    1. Probation Officer9 April 2016 at 12:53

      Exactly my point Netnipper, and if Napo would just be honest about this and stop asking for our subs/direct debits under false pretences. We can't fully blame Napo for TR and we know unions have been trampled across the board. But as long as it remains our union (not mine per se as I'm no longer paying subs) we should expect it to take responsibility for its failed campaign and inability to turn the union around. There are many services in a similar predicament, but I am in awe of those whose union still is effectively a union and has purpose. In our case we have a union that is not doing anything.

      Perhaps Napo need read the War of the Worlds;

      "But it's only on the brink that people find the will to change. Only at the precipice do we evolve. This is [Napo's] moment."

    2. If Ian Lawrence has been reading any books its the Wizard of Oz. Pretend to be something he's not, claim to have power that do not exist and use tricks and cons to fool the membership.

      Many people ignore that unions are not just about strikes and resistance, which Napo couldn't achieve because it wasn't built that way. What Napo could have provided is solidarity, shared experiences and support for members. This is what the membership of the past decade since Trusts should have been built on. Instead Napo tried to be the big-dog and lost all its members and friends in the process and now is out to rip off and cash in on what's left.

      This is the point we all bow out unless Napo changes course, which is too late anyway.

      "Ding-Dong! Napo Is Dead" !!

  8. Recent tweet from the Napo General Secretary;

    "#probation NQ is online. A great read for Napo members with contributions from people who put their name to them."

    Is that a dig at Jim Brown?

  9. Oh dear that's because it says what he approves of. When posters post here there is no offside marshal and JB allows critical posts of himself. On napo its the censorship that stopped me contributing. IL the Chair and there own foolishness.

  10. I treat my union dues in the same way as I treat house insurance. I hope I am wasting my money.

    If I am scapegoated for some perceived failure, if my competence is questioned, if I am to be "Managed out" of the organisation because of my sick record, if I am on the wrong end of some malicious grievance, then I want to be supported.

    I have been on the fringes of all of the above. When these things have happened the unionised have been ok on the whole. The none unionised, not so much. The less secure you are the MORE you need a union. Trainees, new appointees, returners need the security.

    At a time when costs are to be cut, at a time when stress levels and sickness are very high, at a time when managers will be directed to reduce staff to meet the budget, at a time when SFO's will increase due to lack of resources and organisational chaos, we are all targets. To not be in a union is to put a blindfold on in a minefield.