Sunday, 21 August 2016

Magic Wand : My Arse!

There is an image I just can't get out of my head right now. It's from last year's AGM and it's the cringing moment when Chris Winters presented the General Secretary with a magic wand "because he always says he hasn't got one". That this charade was felt in any way appropriate perfectly sums up for me how utterly dysfunctional the leadership of Napo is. 


This is nothing less than a sell out. NAPO 115 Blog starts with 'Some time ago NOMs and ...CRC employers signalled their wish to reform the current NNC and SCCOG' (OK they can wish what they like, but the ball remains in our court). Proposed new arrangements for single table bargaining - arrangements put forward by whom? - the ball is still in our court - we have protected negotiating machinery as per the Staff Transfer Agreement - IL says so himself.

'Whats on offer?' Offered by whom? - we don't have to accept any 'offer' from NOMS or the CRC, or put any offer forward - the ball still remains with us. 'The proposals suggest' - proposals that came from whom?  The NPS and CRC have been 'exploring' with the Unions......hello? Exploring? In the Joint union response we 'suggested'... hello?. Why are we 'suggesting' anything? As a Trade Union we don't 'suggest' to employers - we make clear and considered demands - if you want XYZ you have to agree to ABC UP FRONT and then we'll decide if we accept. 

Sod all this 'we have expectations the employers will put the following measures in place first' Noooooo. Measures in place - then we talk further. And then they have the cheek to push a tentatively worded proposal on the membership 'to support....provided principles are enshrined....' Noooooo, employers - agree to these principles and then we'll talk again....

This is not negotiation and I cant believe we are putting forward such a weak spirited performance when the ADVANTAGE LIES WITH US. We have the power to call the shots on this bit of negotiation, so why aren't we?  We also have the option not to negotiate at all and just to sit tight - the ultimate position and bargaining chip. What was it said on a post a few weeks back about the sharks? Well they are circling on this and we have all the markings of an easy meal.


Ian Lawrence & co now show their true hand on the flop, i.e. the surrender of one of the key features of trade unionism that kept employees protected from unscrupulous, divisive employers. Since the retirement of a weary Judy McKnight we've been cursed with a succession of patsies at the top of Napo. It wouldn't surprise me to hear that post-Benny Hill (aka Ledger) the union was so compromised that systemic collapse was inevitable. 

Goodness only knows what other dark secrets the NOMS/MoJ bullies have at their disposal, primed & ready for release to the press should Napo fail to comply with the TR project. I can't think of any other explanation for the woeful catalogue of incompetence, silence & inaction. Perhaps this was the poisoned chalice handed to Mr Lawrence? I don't know the answer but if it were so, presumably he had a choice - £75k salary to steer Napo into the iceberg, or try to find something else whilst we're briefing against the PCS refugee.


The motion proposed by the leadership asks the AGM to endorse the 'new national collective arrangements' The missing word here is 'bargaining' The so-called 'national collective arrangements' basically rubber stamp the disintegration of national collective bargaining on pay and conditions. This is apparently an example of Napo being 'proactive' and 'protecting the professional and industrial concerns of members'. 

Only two years ago Napo signed the framework agreement which guaranteed retention of national collective bargaining – but no fury in the leadership motion about yet another breach of the framework agreement. In fact, it's more than another breach – it marks the end of a useless 'peace in our time' agreement. I think this wartime allusion is apt because since the outset Napo has pursued a policy of appeasement, hoping perhaps that their reasonableness would be reciprocated. It has not worked and has only added to perceptions of weakness. This motion now seeks to give the employers a green light for independent negotiations and Napo's conditions – wish list - for acceptance will not amount to a hill of beans – and they know it. The Napo leadership feel powerless, they sense no militancy in the workforce. The loss of national collective bargaining would be a historic reversal – but I am not sure that even this would disturb the sleep of many in the workforce.

In contrast the competing motion reminds us of the earlier undertakings given by the employers' side and spells out the likely consequences – a race to the bottom – if national collective bargaining is abandoned. Getting this truth lodged in the minds of the wider workforce would be a major challenge. Given the past form of Napo's campaigns in engaging with, and mobilising, a docile workforce, it requires a lot of optimism to believe that such a campaign will create any industrial muscle, because without far-reaching solidarity the employers will just go ahead and impose new pay negotiating arrangements.

Motion 1 wants to sign another surrender agreement; Motion 2 wants to fight. It truly is decision time. At the moment, to misquote, it looks like a choice between either dying on your feet or dying on your knees.

It's interesting that Chas is coming out now to stand against the supposed leadership, that is IL and DR, there is no other leadership other than these two, the rest just follow. Chas has been Vice Chair, where has his voice been? It hasn't been heard at NEC that's for sure. 

These plans have been going on in secret meetings at the probation consultative forum and outside where IL has suggested there has been no negotiation, yet a proposal has arisen from these very meetings. CRC attendees have been told to keep quiet about these meetings which were questioned at NEC. Minutes from last NEC: Ian explained Napo’s participation in the Probation Consultative Forum. This is not a negotiating forum but is a chance for issues of practical and technical significance in probation to be fed into government circles. It is a good area for influence to grow. An example recently had been Mercia CRC serving redundancy notices with no consultation: because NOMS Contract Section are concerned about the public image of renegade contractors, a relationship existed where Napo were able to persuade Contract Management to intervene over some key HR issues within one of the CRC’s. 

Reports from these meetings have been presented with claims of CRC attendance. When questioned on who has attended and how many meetings IL has been a closed shop. Come on Chas, now is the time to let us know what all this secrecy is about. Clearly you are challenging the leadership, but you had your chance as Vice Chair. Dino CRC that's what we need to get this sorted.


Talking of Dino, thanks go to the reader for sending me the following latest news from the South West. It doesn't escape my notice that the author seems to think that National Collective Bargaining is rather too important to give up lightly; they also happen to be standing for National Chair and there's just time to cast a vote if you can find that ballot paper you couldn't be bothered to fill in.  

19th August 2016

Branch report Redundancies update 12

Dear members,

⦁ As we all enjoy some of the sunshine and the August bank holiday break not so far off, it is important for me to update you all on the mid term of events and let you know that the General Secretaries blog today will inform wider areas of the situation on collective bargaining and The NNC.

⦁ How things are going with the employers Working Links the Company and their new owners Aurelius’ is something the sell out position the management are claiming nothing has changed. From what NAPO have understood Ian Lawrence has asked some questions on the potentials at our recent and first of the regions dispute meeting in London with Unison GMB and sister Napo branches.

⦁ The Dispute meeting held at Chivalry Road 26th July was never going to be a settlement meeting but was more a mix of positioning and small inroads to clarify what resolutions might start to settle some of the dispute heads. It is not helpful when WL representatives do not appear to actually want to engage meaningfully in any proper dialogue. Nor with a real view to looking to resolve the tensions. We experience this as their leadership refuses to make any real commitment or decisions claiming a need to consult with colleagues. Despite this on other occasions we have never seen or heard this reference before the dispute. They never accept the invidious position they have engineered despite constant and clear attempts from all the affected branches to encourage them to do things properly under the legitimate procedures.

⦁ Given the meeting was fairly bland and non committal they reported their dissatisfaction from Working links the company about reading up reported matters in meetings to NAPO members. It was loosely agreed not to detail a formal report at the time, which is why there has been no interim information to you. Maintaining this position is something I am holding together for the while at least. I have obviously drafted my notes and made a staff side report available to our representatives side.

⦁ We still await the Working links the company response to the innovation Wessex letter of independence inquiry. The GS had written to them although to date drawn a blank . There has been some cross over of issues although no reply is a pretty poor show whoever you are. We are used to this treatment in the DDC area. From the dispute letter however NAPO have received late in the day reply, a magical type response as if there is nothing wrong with the way Working Links the Company have conducted themselves or their intentions to dismiss so many staff in both record of number, and in haste of time. Their appalling references to a structure to what is described as the “terms of reference“ which are basically their proposals on how to manage dismissals. I have been through it several times and its not fit for anything let alone a proposal for agreement. These are both incredibly poor and fail to follow already agreed and owned collective arrangements.

⦁ The 1-1 interviews situation had caused no ends of the worst practices we have ever experienced and witnessed in the role of union officials. The incredible mis-managed and deliberate external recruiting while threats to incumbent employees is currently being argued. All the examples are being collated and to ensure for our members if legal challenges are necessary the evidence is here.

⦁ On top of this, as if this was not already enough. We end up with a Working Links the Company announcement that they intend to leave National Negotiatory Council as from the 1 11 2016. Delivered in a way that describes a well principled and decent structure for National collective agreements for employers and Unions to operate and which have done well for many years. These terms and conditions serving the process for good employment relations is now described by Working Links representatives as not fit for purpose. I am yet to see, and learn of their infinite wisdom on how any local company is now setting its stall out, and to be any better! Not a chance! After all they have a public record of having to return hundreds of thousands of pounds after a false claims scandal. Monies from the government obtained and described as less than honest. From a company that has to date failed to engage appropriately with the unions. What might they actually believe. That their future arrangements will look fair or compliant with any reasonable and proper tenant remains to be seen. From what we have experienced, don’t bank on it. Keeping in mind their recent sell out to Aurelius was not a victory but more a financier’s rescue fund which is more an indication of the true organisational ability. I suspect more of that come as the mistakes get more obvious and the overcutting leaves the service that was vulnerable and the staff within it let alone the failure to deliver real qualitative services.

⦁ The combined Unions have another meeting scheduled after the bank holiday. I will keep you posted. There are a series of letters running and these will all be published shortly and as soon as we make head roads or not. Perhaps escalation to further our collective dispute which has the support of Unison Napo and the GMB and hope that we can all grab some rest over the final bank holiday this year.

⦁ My apologies for having nothing positive to report at this time but to assure you we continue to maintain the protective position for our members and to ensure the data and evidence collection continues no matter the additional pressures being placed on all the reps at this time.

⦁ If you have any concerns please write the rep of the unions or to me and record all you can that impacts on your role. Next week sees the elections of the national chair for Napo and whoever that becomes. Please ensure we stick together in NAPO to maintain our best collective fighting chances as the situation with the employers continue and their agenda takes a further pace towards more reductions in all staff.

Dino Peros Napo Branch Chair SSw


Finally, I would like to remind readers of this contribution from a few weeks ago:-

Chas Berry NPS.
Yvonne Pattison NPS.
Chris Winters NPS.
Katie Lomas NPS.
Keith Stokeld NPS.
Tina Williams NPS.
Iqbal Bhopal NPS.
Tony Mercer NPS.

Dino Peros CRC.

What does this mean? Currently Napo HQ is 100% NPS. Current candidates are 89% NPS. Now it is not the fault of these candidates that they are NPS and less CRC staff applied. But Chas, Yvonne and Chris should do the right thing and stand down. We need CRC representation. Vote Dino.


  1. 16 questions for NAPO on the general secretaries proposals.

    1. What is the NAPO strategy used in the plans and arrangements to discuss with CRC and NPS employers to change the collective bargaining process?
    2. Why wasn’t this brought to the NEC and progress reported on?
    3. Why did it take a motion from a branch to NEC adopted by officers to bring this matter to the attention of the NEC?
    4. What are the objectives of the employer in these discussions and what is the objective of the general secretary?
    5. Who agreed the objectives?
    6. Who does the GS think are the beneficiaries of the collective bargaining and what does he consider to be our strengths?
    7. What are the pros and cons from moving to a centralised collective bargaining process to an enterprise collective bargaining approach that will result in unequal pay structures?
    8. How is NAPO going to meet its own objectives achieved through a centralised bargaining process which facilitates more equal distribution of incomes?
    9. How is NAPO going to prevent CRC’s from depriving employees pay through unfair performance related pay practices in a corporate structure of payment by results?
    10. How will NAPO square the circle as a move away from centralised bargaining will effectively be supporting the governments payment by results which we fought hard against?
    11. Does this mean NAPO is now in support of payment by results to provide probation services?
    12. If CRC’s are pushing for flexibility to increase global competition what counter proposals has the GS brought to the table to reduce risk of a race to the bottom?
    13. Does NAPO not believe this could be seen by members as a union sell out and a failure to understand the constructs and power of collective bargaining?
    14. Has NAPO forgotten its strength by failing to recognise its members are a professional workforce. Are they giving up on this fight?
    15. NAPO leadership are being influenced by a few CRC’s like Seetec who are allegedly looking to increase wages to attract professionals. How many other CRC’s are actually interested in paying staff more?
    16. Is one CRC really going to impact on the buying power of probation labour force ?

    1. I take it you have sent these questions direct to NAPO. If not please do and let us know what response you get.

  2. Seetec may be considering offering higher salaries, as geography means that many staff who live in Kent, Surrey and Sussex may prefer to ply their trade in the metropolis because of London Weighting.

    The same will not apply in most other areas of the country, and the result will be a continued wage freeze or downward pressure on wages. If NAPO agree to drop national collective bargaining, then there really is no point in it continuing to exist.

    1. I agree. And my stopping of the Direct Debit the following day will confirm this. I would imagine that many others will follow suit. This will be the death of their own hands!

      To misquote...the longest suicide note in history.

    2. Don't go! Stay and fight! They mustn't get away with this.

    3. Working Links have made their position clear: they do not regard national collective bargaining as fit for purpose and they are going to withdraw from national arrangements in November. It would seem this reflects the views and intentions of all the CRCs. The employers have decided this is what they want to do, it is non-negotiable and they will impose their will because they know they can. They know the unions are weak and apart from unions' huffing and puffing, they do not believe they will face any organised resistance.

      Napo talks about 'reforming' the NNC machinery, just as it reformed its constitution to adapt to TR. What else can it do when the facts on the ground are as they are? The CRCs are not going to allow pre-TR collective arrangements to interfere with their plans. The CRCs want a free hand to negotiate on pay levels and all HR policies. They will manage and pay their own workforces as they see fit – because they can and no one can stop them!

      On the 18th March, the GS wrote in his blog:

      'Napo and our sister unions have held on to the NNC machinery in its present form for as long as we are able, but the choice before us is stark; we either seek to influence change or stand there and watch the bargaining machinery that has sustained us for so many years vanish wholly without trace'.

    4. We don't necessarily have to hold onto it in its present form; I am just really alarmed by the rhetoric being used in the current ' so called'negotiations- words and phrases like 'suggest' and 'we expect'- verbal subserviant handwringing when we have a documented agreed position. If the CRC' s walk away from national negotiations then surely they are in breach of their contracts? And so we go back to the MOJ machinery in charge of ensuring contracts are complied with? And if we get no joy there then we go to the Minister and demand an explanation? Are we really so lacking in routes of accountability?

    5. "The employers have decided this is what they want to do, it is non-negotiable and they will impose their will because they know they can. They know the unions are weak and apart from unions' huffing and puffing, they do not believe they will face any organised resistance".
      Do the unions feel weak because they have no confidence in support from their membership? Or does the membership have no faith that the unions no longer have their best interests at heart?
      Divide and conquer?


    6. As I have said on this blog before, it's about playing the game of real Politiks. NAPO is not a union it is an association and offers the square route of sod all in comparison to the likes of the RMTU who can grab headlines and can cause the public to look deeper. The public are a fickle and selfish bunch so Probation is a non event to them until things go wrong and they then blame us; That won't change. Harry was the last true (and probably the only)spokesman who had the ability to at least get the message out. So we in the CRCs (I cannot speak for NPS)are driven by market forces. Well: if you are good a what you do and I don't mean to breach to the nth degree, I mean good at what you do! Engage, challenge, talk, listen, advise , assist (I struggle with the befriend bit). If you are good at this ,and I know the vast majority of you are because I have seen you; then become a market commodity. Play them (Tories) at their game. Resign tomorrow...... On Tuesday register with an agency...CRCs are soooooo dependant on agency staff, We cannot survive without them. We have too many young, inexperienced struggling PSOs that we need agency staff to bail us out.... We have lost soooo many SPOs to so it is vital to get the best agency POs and PSOs to keep our head above water. If we lost you all to agencies we would have to pay market prices for your invaluable services and we certainly could not see out the CRC contract without eating into our other more lucrative contracts...... We would have to go to the Justice Secretary and hand over the keys! But don't quote me!!!!
      Yours with affection,
      Adrian Ringrose CEO Interserve PLC
      (Not Really)

    7. Don't be ridiculous you must be a senior CRC manager no one is prepared to leave their pensions to privateers to cash in on the dividend, Jobs that are skilled and trained for shamefully POs were sold off and effectively sacked when they were chosen for the CRC and then de skilled making not one probation officer decision since the split. Any agency worker comes in and virtually does the job these days no need for ex PO . We have been shafted and Napo failed to do the basic stuff alert us and galvanise the action. Some too busy applying for the new jobs while others failed to act in the sell off testing. Failed legal attempts all too late.

    8. Well move on then.......

    9. Snr manager 08:28

  3. Its not rocket science ,docile and apathetic workforce =union with no muscle ,simple

    1. It is that simple: United we bargain; divided we beg.

    2. I agree 15.43 it was all over when we agreed to the transfer probation staff are not willing to put there money where their mouth is What do they think the unions have to bargain with... A big fat nothing look how we've collectively rolled over st every dispute including the abysmal pay offers Unfortunstely no strike no chance the employers know probation staff won't fight anymore

  4. OK but should the situation be dictating the general secretary goes to AGM and ask the membership to make the decision when in fact there should be a ballot. If we were ask about action before succumbing to another non policed agreement what is the point of the General secretary ?

    1. The point about a ballot of all members is a good one. It seems that the general secretary is seeking a mandate from those who vote at the AGM, not a mandate based on the vote of the entire membership. Given the significance of giving up national collective bargaining on pay, shoudn't this decision be left to the entire membership rather than a small proportion? Who knows, perhaps spreading the awareness of what is at stake would make the entire membership sit up and think about their futures a little more carefully.

    2. Ballot members that's a laugh think last time they did that the response was very poor in the 20% range from memory

    3. A potential low turnout is no reason not to ballot, as any full ballot is likely to be higher that a vote taken at the AGM. The membership has never expressed a view on the ending of national collective bargaining and maybe when they are advised what its likely repercussions will be, they will become more interested than of late. Maybe they won't be any different, but it's a bit arrogant to prejudge and by such reason, the next step is to dispense with elections altogether.

  5. It puzzles me why anyone continues to work for probation in any guise these days with what has been going on since Grayling decided to sell half of it off. Surely decent jobs aren't THAT hard to come by these days that staying on a sinking ship is your only option?

  6. The Probation Service I joined in the early 1990s is being turned into a range of pitiful local providers like those who provide domiciliary care. A pale imitation of the internationally acclaimed organisation it used to be. NOMS should be ashamed but won't be because there has never been a sufficiently informed Probation presence there to inform it.

  7. Napo have only ever been interested in protecting NPS staff since they agreed the split. CRC members left high and dry and exploited by profiteering companies with worse to come