30th June 2016
To: all Napo Members in Working Links owned CRCs
Cc: For information only
Napo Branch Chairs
Family Court SEC
Napo Officers and Officials
Trade unions register dispute across three CRCs owned by Working Links as news of company acquisition by Aurelius breaks
Napo Members will be aware that the probation unions have been engaging in regular dialogue with senior management representing the 3 Community Rehabilitation Companies owned by Working Links: Devon Dorset and Cornwall; Bristol, Gloucester, Somerset and Wiltshire, and Wales.
Latterly, much of our discussion has been focused on the intended operating plan for the future delivery of rehabilitation services across the above areas against the intention of Working Links to make reductions of around 40% in staffing.
Members Opposition to Job cuts
Following the last Joint Union and senior management meeting in Worle on 10th June, the unions have had an opportunity to report back to their respective members. The clear message coming back is that the proposed staffing reduction tabled by Working Links is unacceptable and unjustifiable.
The attached letter records that the unions have lodged a formal dispute and have asked that the planned consultation with staff which forms part of an as yet unagreed job matching and selection process be delayed pending further urgent dialogue.
We have not as yet had a response to indicate that the company are prepared to call a halt to the planned briefings and interviews with staff. This is unfortunate, but Napo cannot instruct staff to not attend a meeting with their managers, but we can say that you should not feel compelled in any way to answer questions that you might be asked which make you feel that your individual position is at risk or which ask you to make any definite commitment.
Next steps for members
Napo and the probation unions await an invitation to discuss the specific grounds of dispute which are contained in a letter sent to senior Working Links management and we will keep members advised of developments. It can be seen that, among other things, Napo does not believe that adequate support and training has been offered to managers who are to be charged with the difficult task of commencing a selection process that could directly lead to the loss of your job.
Meanwhile, you should take the opportunity of any discussions between you and your line managers to ask that the following questions are recorded and fed through to senior Working Links management:
- Why is Working Links intending to make such a substantial reduction in staffing?
- How can such a large reduction be justified when there is a need to ensure that the quality of probation services and the protection of communities are maintained?
- Why has there not been an agreement with the unions about the consultation process including the HR principles and the appropriate redundancy policy before consultation with staff has started?
Napo will do its best to keep you and your local reps posted as to developments.
Aurelius acquires Working Links
In a shock development that I understand was unknown even to a number of the senior Working Links management team, news broke last night that a German institutional investment company known as Aurelius has now acquired the operation.
As you would expect, Napo will be investigating the exact financial aspects of the purchase and the track record of this company, but on the face of it, this buy out appears to be a straight forward business acquisition. Aurelius have not signalled any changes to the senior CRC management teams and have no record in the justice sector. We have already started to make enquiries as to why there was not a period of reflection so that the Secretary of State could be satisfied that he wanted this company to be involved in the provision of the CRC contracts and we will report further if we can obtain more information on this point.
Napo’s expectation is that Aurelius are looking at opportunities to buy into work programmes potentially in Europe and or expand in the UK if and when opportunities arise.
The important question that members will have is whether this development changes the operational plans including the planned staffing reductions, and the predictable answer is that it will not make any difference.
It is also unlikely that the two gushing announcements to staff by the Working Links Chief Executive today which suggests this is ‘great news’ and an ‘exciting time’ will be received with any enthusiasm by those members in the three CRCs whose jobs are at risk.
Join Napo today!
The continuing uncertainties faced by Napo members working in the three CRCs and the volatile political and economic climate that is being generated on the back of last week’s ‘Brexit’ decision, means that membership of a trade union is more important than it has ever been.
Please encourage colleagues who have yet to become Napo members to do so today and to take advantage of reduced subscription rates that are available to all members who pay subscriptions by Direct Debit.
More news on developments within your CRC will follow as soon as possible as Napo continues to oppose and challenge the rationale for job cuts.
28th June 2016
NOTICE OF DISPUTE
The Trade Unions are writing following the last Joint Union Meeting and after now having had the opportunity to report to our members across the three Community Rehabilitation Companies owned by Working Links.
Despite the efforts to convince Working Links that the planned staffing reductions are both unsafe and unjustifiable, given the need to provide effective rehabilitation services across the areas concerned, the refusal to withdraw the current Section 188 notices and offer a fresh period for formal consultation and a refusal to call a halt to the selection process that you intend to implement, the unions hereby give formal notice of a dispute which will now be copied to the Joint Secretaries of the National Negotiating Council.
The unions also need to express our serious disappointment that despite the commitment from management to convene a short side’s discussion group for the region (which is captured in the JUM minutes and re referenced at the last JUM); this has still to take place.
We are also disappointed at the failure to circulate the information pack of materials to managers across all three of the CRC’s simultaneously and in reasonable time for the unions to consider these prior to the commencement of staff briefings, despite Union Chairs requesting the papers last week.
The HR principles have yet to be agreed despite the initial progress made at earlier meetings and as they stand there is a conflation between the need to try and reach local agreement over the staff reduction programme and what appears to be the incorporation of NNC management of change principles which, in fact, is a separate process to be used in order to avoid compulsory redundancies.
In view of the foregoing we have identified the following grounds for the dispute:
1. The unions’ position is that we do not believe that a case has been made by the employer to justify any further reductions in staffing. Moreover, we are not convinced of the rationale or business case behind the intention to reduce staffing across the three CRC's by over 40%. We also believe that the use of Operational Hubs has still to be proven in terms of concept and the safety of staff and service users.
2. Notwithstanding the foregoing, we have not finally agreed a process for negotiation in terms of which legacy redundancy policy you intend to operate, or agreed the terms of the selection and mapping process which includes staff appraisals and sickness absence as key criteria. We have seen no evidence that adequate training has been provided to managers who will be expected to make critical decisions using a sifting process in this way. This means that there will not be a consistent or reasonable application of selection across the 3 CRC areas.
3. The proposed roles and job descriptions under the intended future staffing profile have not been finally agreed with the Trade Unions.
4. The proposed roles have been arbitrarily graded and have not been subject to any Job evaluation using the established NNC JE process.
5. Subject to us being able to reach agreement the roles should be advertised amongst all three CRC areas to avoid unnecessary reductions and relocations.
6. There is also an absence of assurances around mobility and future estates policy and pay protection, all of which need to be the subject of any agreement.
Clearly we have reached a critical position in terms of the working relationship that is developing between the unions, Working Links and the CRC employers. Whilst we would rather not have had to exercise the option of a dispute, which we will of course be communicating to our respective members, we believe that the above narrative provides the parties with the basis for meaningful dialogue with a view to reaching agreement.
In view of this we would ask that the planned staff briefings are postponed until further dialogue has taken place between us. We are proposing an urgent 'short sides' meeting be arranged comprising of say 4/5 representatives from the unions and an equivalent number from senior management to explore how we can move on from this impasse.
We look forward to your reply.
IAN LAWRENCE GLYN JONES DAVID WALTON
General Secretary Regional Organiser National Secretary
Napo UNISON GMB/SCOOP