Monday, 11 July 2016

Napo Dispute Special

Napo Working Links News  - Dispute Special edition

Dear members,

You will already be aware that the probation unions across the Community Rehabilitation Companies formerly owned by Working Links (until last week’s takeover by Aurelius) have served a joint dispute on senior CRC management over the intention to shed more than 40% of staff.

The letter from the unions is available to view here.

This makes it very clear that despite the engagement we have had with senior management over many months, the unions are totally opposed to more job cuts.

Management agree to meet

At the time of writing we are hoping that a meeting between senior CRC management and the unions can take place within the next fortnight to try and reach an agreement about exactly what the company's intentions are towards achieving a reduction in staffing, the rationale behind the plans and the policies they intend to use to engage with us transparently.

Our position is that there is important work to be done across the three CRCs concerned and that we have still to be convinced that additional job cuts are necessary and sustainable in terms of the responsibility to ensure high quality rehabilitation and supervision to clients and the expected standards of public protection.

If the company can prove that further job cuts are absolutely unavoidable, then we want to secure an early agreement that the most appropriate redundancy policy is put into operation to best protect our members’ interests.

Confusion and chaos is avoidable

In the initial response to Napo General Secretary Ian Lawrence, senior management expressed surprise that the unions had lodged a dispute over the staff reduction plans and claimed that the current discussions at the joint union meetings does not signal the start of a redundancy process.

Unfortunately senior CRC management have ignored the reasonable request that the unions made in good faith, that they suspend the current discussions and withdraw the section 188 notices of potential redundancies and suspend briefing sessions for staff so that we might seek to agree some straightforward processes that would help to reassure staff that this is not the first stage of a formal redundancy process in disguise.

Napo has, on numerous occasions, tried to steer CRC management away from invoking a strategy that looks to our members like an attempt by the employer to indicate that they are 'putting their foot on the brake' over job cuts whilst identifying candidates for departure.

All of this means that staff are concerned at what their futures may look like as a result of the continuing cuts agenda.

Role of 'independent providers' still unclear

We have pressed senior CRC management over the recent revelations around the work of Innovation Wessex and their reported role as an independent advisor to justify the operating model under which a vastly reduced workforce would operate. This means that the CRCs intend to drive ahead with a reorganisation plan by claiming it has provenance by way of the so called 'proof of concept'. Yet, despite this assertion, the unions have yet to be convinced about the status and funding situation in respect of this organisation.

Who are Aurelius?

Members have reported being shocked (as well as seriously unimpressed) by the news of the take over of Working Links by a German company called Aurelius. Napo was quick to seek confirmation as to whether this development which was described as 'good news' by the Working Links Chief Executive, would mean that the funding shortfall could be addressed to allow unions and management the opportunity to identify additional employment and investment opportunities.

Unfortunately the somewhat predictable response that there are no plans to revisit the planned job cuts will only serve to harden the attitudes of members who feel that they are under threat of redundancy.

We will find out as much as we can about Aurelius, but their publicised activities in countries such as Saudi Arabia whose record on trade union recognition and human rights is not exactly anything to shout about, will not have gone unnoticed.

Managers being unfairly treated?

Contrary to some rumours, Napo is an inclusive union that is more than happy to include management grades into our membership.

We are mindful of the fact that a number of manager members have approached Napo to say how uncomfortable they are with being instructed to discuss the individual circumstances of staff who feel vulnerable while a dispute exists.

Napo remain concerned that senior CRC management continue to place inappropriate duties on middle managers through their consultation exercise by:

1. Making managers accountable for a process for which they have not received appropriate training

2. Requiring them to ensure all staff are given appropriate information whilst not having been given anywhere near enough themselves

3. Not providing adequate time to ensure absent staff are properly informed

4. Making it clear to managers that this is a selection process yet denying this to the unions and staff. This leaves managers in an invidious position.

5. Managers being asked to undertake what is essentially an HR function.

6. Managers being told to undertake a task that is noted to them as a requirement under employment law and actions being legally compliant while the process is in dispute.

Napo members and manager members should always feel able to discuss normal matters in the context of supervision but a structured meeting based on the instructions issued by senior management that they claim is an informal and generic consultation and not a consultation to do with redundancy is disingenuous.

Some members have expressed confusion at the 'legal phrases' in the documentation which was sent out. These present many contradictions in terms of the basis of selection for potential redundancy, and may well present a number of difficulties in the future.

At the time of writing we are receiving conflicting reports about whether there will be another opportunity for members to have follow-up 1-1 meetings.

We are therefore asking members not to agree or sign anything that they feel uncomfortable about and we also ask our manager members to respect this, and to also formally register your position if you have concerns about being instructed to conduct a discussion under these circumstances.


What should I do during an interview?

In light of the refusal by CRC senior management to pause the briefings and one to one meetings, Napo has decided to issue a series of questions that we are asking members to consider submitting at their one to one interviews. We also again remind members that you are not obliged to agree or sign anything that causes you difficulty.

We would advise you to follow the line of questions below and record in your interview notes that you have done so.

If you have already had an interview then submit the questions after the event.

  • 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?
Once you have submitted these key questions you can follow up with some or all of these locally focused questions from the following menu:

Is my current job being made redundant?
I am at direct risk of compulsory redundancy?
Has the reorganisation plan made arrangements for my job despite plans to close this building?

Will I get travel time and relocation costs for new location of work?
Have you an alternative post in mind for me and what and where is it please?
Have the new job descriptions that we have heard about actually been agreed with my union reps and nationally agreed job evaluation process?
When and where are the rates of pay for the roles?
I am concerned that the Human Resources principles that are being deployed are at the centre of my unions dispute with the employer. How can this go ahead whilst these matters are not agreed?
My Part time role has the same rights so what happens to my role in the new model, if not am I being informed that I may be made potentially redundant?
As a probation officer my role that was transferred into the CRC has already changed and will again. What is being done about my variation of contract as I will no longer be a Probation Officer doing the job I trained for?
My Union is concerned, as I am too, in that conducting 1-1 interviews in this way is a clear indication that compulsory redundancy is imminent. Can you assure me this is not correct? (In writing).


  1. It is quite obvious that WL AURELIUS are seeking redundancies so i am confused at the statement 'redundancy in disguise'! Figures we were given look like 50% cuts across the board. I can see the precicament of middle managers but how many would actually be prepared to stand up and refuse to take part in what is obviously a selection process? Not many is my guess!

  2. Good luck. Working Links might have been weak, but Aurelius will not be so soft.

    Sadly there was no appetite or strategy for a fight to stop a similar process in Sodexo owned CRCs & many experienced (aka "expensive") colleagues were lost, either by jumping early into new jobs or by being pushed into impossibly uncomfortable corners. At that time managers were enticed to comply through financial incentives, e.g. early agreement on EVR payments such that they could work for up to 18 months post-EVR agreement, then walk away with buckets of gold having done Sodexo's dirty work & shafted their staff. It is rumoured some of those managers were subsequently taken on by Sodexo. Nice work if you like the taste of venomous spittle.

    1. The strategy for the NAPO team look employment law based. The reps are obviously skilled and managing the process as they have a dispute going across the region. Perhaps the sodexo area representatives lacked the skills and energy.

    2. Having been involved it felt more like napo hq's lack of strategy caused delays and lack of knowledge led to serious errors of judgement. Local area reps were exhausted & often unable to answer questions because of no support, whilst direct approaches to hq were met with stonewalling & no apparent understanding or belief that Sodexo would carry out their clearances.

      Lets hope there's sufficient & effective support for this battle.

  3. Is this the same piece South West Chair Dino wrote last week. This is the advice and guidance he provided to everyone facing 1:1 meetings isn't it?