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.
15 years to retire