Tuesday, 20 September 2016

CRC Dispute - Latest 2

Napo Working Links News Dispute Special

Dear members,

As you will know, the probation unions have been in dispute with the Working Links Community Rehabilitation Companies for over two months.

Attached is the latest joint letter from the Trade Unions which articulates the continuing difficulties that we are encountering in terms of our issues being treated with the seriousness they deserve.

This bulletin has been written to bring you up to date with the discussions that have taken place so far, it also highlights the issues that are still at large and explains why we believe that we now need urgent action if we are to avoid a possible escalation of the dispute into industrial action.

Basis for the dispute 

The probation unions are totally opposed to the intention of Working Links to shed nearly 40% of the workforce across their three Community Rehabilitation Companies.

Moreover, we have yet to be convinced of the rationale for the plans which the company claim are linked to the reductions in the number of cases on their books and proposed changes to service provision through the target operating model that they are trying to introduce. 

Our position has always been that there is important work to be done across the three CRC's especially given the Government’s intention to make significant reforms to the prison regime, and that we have still to be convinced that 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 is able to prove that further job cuts are absolutely unavoidable, then we obviously want to secure an early agreement that the most appropriate redundancy policy is put into operation to best protect our members’ interests. 

As can be seen from the latest joint letter the unions have flatly rejected the offer made last week to make Enhanced Voluntary Redundancy available to a limited number of people and on worse terms than those already awarded to staff who have left their employment or are about to. 

Failure to consult signals disrespect to our members Aside from the objections to the prospective job cuts, Napo has made it very clear following feedback from our members, that the operational model they are seeking to introduce is unproven and that the matching process to place staff into new roles has caused unnecessary confusion and chaos with some managers having been placed in an invidious position due to inadequate information and support. Contrary to some rumours, Napo is an inclusive union that is more than happy to include management grades into our membership where you will be most welcome. 

The unions are very disappointed at the limited progress that has been made in the two meetings that have taken place so far with senior management. We have made positive and constructive suggestions which would ease tensions and allow a more coordinated approach to exploring the underlying problems that have given rise to this dispute. 

We will therefore be entering tomorrows talks with the genuine intention of trying to secure a possible resolution of the dispute, but we will need to see a good deal more conviction and respect for our position than that which we have previously encountered. 

For example, we have made a reasonable enough request to the claim from senior management that this is not the first stage of a formal redundancy process by pressing them to withdraw the Section 188 notices of potential redundancies. 

Irrespective of the outcome of this week’s talks, the probation unions are now making plans to consult with our members in order that you can provide your national and local representatives with your views on the next steps. 

Working Links have been advised that we are keeping all of our options open in order to strengthen our bargaining position and more details about these will be reported to the member meetings which we expect to announce shortly.

Why Union membership is vital

By far the best way to apply pressure on any employer is by the majority of the workforce being members' of a trade union.

This means sticking with your union membership and encouraging colleagues who do not currently belong to Napo to join today.

Make no mistake, the threat to jobs and the intention of the company to let staff go on inferior terms are real and serious, and we stand a better chance of securing negotiated outcomes if more employees belong to a union.

Our view is that it is a mistake for anyone employed by a CRC to hope that events may not actually impact on you, or to believe that things will somehow work out in the end.

Working Links and their new owners in the form of Aurelius (well known as a traditional 'asset stripping' enterprise) are in the probation sector to make a profit first and the welfare of those employed in their CRC's a distant second. 

These, and many other CRC owners, are part of an already failing social experiment called Transforming Rehabilitation, and we are increasingly being told that the contracts that were sold to bidders are being described as something of a 'pig in a poke.'

That may not entirely be their fault, but nor is it the fault of Napo members who did not ask to be privatised and never got the chance to vote on whether they should face the employment scrapheap either. They have a not unreasonable expectation that they should be properly compensated if they have no future with the employer.

--oo00oo--

(The letter referred to was previously published on 06/09/2016 - Ed)

30 comments:

  1. Pig in a poke - means that something is sold or bought without the buyer knowing its true nature or value, especially when buying without inspecting the item beforehand. Again thoughts with employees facing uncertain times through no fault of their own making.

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  2. I know for a fact that the NAPO Reps in DDC are absolutely committed to holding Working Links to the protected transfer arrangements, WHICH THEY AGREED TO AS PART OF BEING AWARDED THE CONTRACT. This includes EVR, and not some mealy mouthed lesser 'offer'.

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  3. What an anxious time for CRC Working Links staff-hope they support each other and stand firm.

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  4. They'll wriggle out of it just like Sodexo did in N'bria. We also had EVR policies in place hence why they offered a severence, which is a different thing. Wouldn't hold your breath for EVR!

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  5. It seems clear that the employers are not in listening mode. The unions are 'totally opposed' to job cuts but then leave WL room to prove that cuts are absolutely unavoidable. The parent company Aurelius are asset strippers – it's how they 'add value'.

    The unions plan to consult with members so views can be given to local and national representatives on next steps. Why they need to be advised about next steps seems a procrastination. Napo never went to the membership before signing the framework agreement, but on other occasions they look to a membership, which they know is apathetic, to soften a hard landing.

    It is obvious that there is only one step that could potentially give WL second thoughts – strike action. I am sure WL have calculated this is unlikely, as they only have to look at the ease with which other companies have got their way. Maybe the South West will prove the exception. Unless WL form the view that it's not going to be as easy as they thought to trample over the workers and cut out 40%, only then will negotiations become meaningful in any reasonable sense - but don't hold your breath as the South West story reaches its denouement.

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    1. "Napo never went to the membership before signing the framework agreement, but on other occasions they look to a membership, which they know is apathetic, to soften a hard landing."

      Exactly so, and they procrastinated over the Sodexo scenario which allowed the employer to wrest control & offer voluntary severance on their terms. If the unions had taken one test case through the hoops then members would have had confidence in the unions, membership might have swelled instead of dwindling & the employers may well have had pause for thought. But no... and I note this is echoed elsewhere on today's blog:

      "If NAPO win one case against the employers confidence will be restored and the union membership will rise. Why can't the General Secretary see this and take legal action for us?"

      My suspicion is that despite the obvious strength of position for the unions (i.e. TR aint working as they had hoped & its all falling apart at the seams) Noms/MoJ have Napo (or Mr Lawrence?) in some kind of impossible headlock & will snap its neck unless Napo sits on its hands thereby allowing the CRCs to triumph with staff cuts at a price that suits them. The Sodexo areas were screaming "Don't Negotiate! We have EVR!"... look what happened.

      Otherwise why aren't Napo/Unison etc running rings around the CRCs? Admittedly the Sodxo scenario was a new one for many in the probation world; fear & loathing & bullying ruled and the voluntary severance scam won through. But we're a year on... Have the unions learned nothing?!?

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    2. The Sodexo scam was as old as the hills. The framework agreement allowed for individuals to negotiate – and they did. There was no belly to fight and the local rep actually encouraged it. WL will seek to encourage individuals to do the same in the South West – and they probably will. It's a mistake to think there was an easy legal solution. The only possible solution lies in solidarity, but I expect what happened with Sodexo will be repeated, because Napo members don't know the meaning of solidarity, but they know how to be victims.

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    3. As ever, its more complicated - "they know how to be victims" mght better be phrased as "they were set up to be victims". Sifted into CRC on data overseen by trust management wanting to 'cherry pick', left in communicado by the union for prolonged periods with no advice, threatened (witness-free) by local managers in one-to-one supervision that they'll be "managed out with nothing" if they didn't take the voluntary option, etc. The lack of a fight came about because faith in the unions rapidly waned, members left in droves & newer, non-union staff didn't understand or particularly care about the historical stuff - and why should they? They'd recently been given a relatively well paid PSO job with prospects, why screw it up? What was left of Napo membership were scattered to the four corners.

      I wish SW well with their fight.

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    4. There was no leadership from the unions when it came to Sodexo and Macro (I really wish we didn't forget Nacro)!

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  6. We need to do everything we can to encourage union membership and participation on this blog. The CRCs all have similar plans to downsize and reorganise and they are emboldened by apathy and the contempt shown by some towards union leaders. I sometimes wonder if it is the employers commenting to promote their own ends. Strong words are only backed up by numbers of union members and a solid commitment to take industrial action. The owners of probation services are counting on apathy, political sympathy, and low union strength to push through their agenda. The best opposition is to join or rejoin the union and stand firm. There is only strength in numbers and collective bargaining. Those relying on others to save them need to think again and be part of the solution rather than saying there is no point in joining a union and resistance is futile.

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    1. 12.09, your analysis is spot-on, because in the final analysis, after all the bulletins and meetings, and when the fundamental differences cannot be resolved, there are only two options: surrender and let the employers have a free hand to throw you out of work inadequately compensated, or fight this injustice through strike action. If you fight you have have to put to one side your individual differences, and how your situation compares with others, because these enable the employer to divide and rule. The sight no employer ever wants to see is a workforce united in opposition to their proposals. If you fight you may still lose, but what's the point in believing in anything, if, when the time comes to stand up for your beliefs, you walk away?

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  7. Napo membership is just too weak and too expensive. It's the most expensive Union on record but it's track record and member benefits are the worst. What it needs to do is drop the price to £10 per month, stop supporting the so-called Probation Institute, improve comradeship and support within probation and the membership, start making public and definitive but constructive statements against the probation shambles, and the members will roll in.

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    1. The enemy is at the door and you are worrying about home improvements. Yes, there are issues that need addressing, but there is an imminent threat that calls for solidarity in the here and now, not in a utopian future. You should be urging solidarity instead of indulging in 'what ifs'.

      But maybe that's why there is never any bloody solidarity - because navel gazing is easier. You improve comradeship by practicing it, not theorising about it.

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    2. Actually the way to improve is by leading from the front. Three years or so on from TR and nobody is leading Napo in and constructive direction. There well may be isolated pockets of resistance but as a union Napo is pants. Napo lost the fight and so it needs more than 'fighting talk' alone to incentivise the membership, current and prospective.

      The bottom line: Napo is readying to give up NNC protections, head office will be sold to boost IL's golden handshake, and while the his Exec chums are busy backslapping and waving their sabres, the NPS is busy downsizing and the CRC's are busy preparing to sell, restructure, sell, restructure!

      .... No theory in sight..

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    3. If employers see a surge in union membership bucking the general trend then they will sit up and take notice as will MoJ/NOMS as their game plan relies on unions being in terminal decline and becoming increasingly less credible as representative of employees as membership plummets. Join a union, stand united, and strengthen our collective voice.

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  8. It is interesting to see how this is playing out. Noms sold them a pup. The Crcs thought they could save money on buildings, infrastructure, staffing. wav would be paid at a handsome rate and profits would come rolling in.
    The realities are coming home, infrastructure changes aren't coming quickly enough for the savings to be made, buildings are more difficult to find and more costlier than they first anticipated and the wav has never materialised.

    The profit element needs to remain and this can only happen by even bigger cuts to staffing.

    Remember those under 12 month offenders well they are still offending at the same or similar rates so unlikely to see a fall in reoffending rates.

    Noms are currently reviewing measures as they don't make sense and thinking of returning to the tried and tested ways previously used. So everything has changed but it is heading full circle in the world of noms.

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  9. Full circle except decent pay, working conditions and terms for staff. This is capitalism at its best, asset stripping and whipping flagging horses to death. If NAPO win one case against the employers confidence will be restored and the union membership will rise. Why can't the General Secretary see this and take legal action for us?

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    1. Unless you know something I don't, any potential remedy lies in the workplace, not the courts. Putting faith in the courts is not where salvation lies. If it is to be found, it's in solidarity. But solidarity means individuals sticking together, not undermining each other or the union. Solidarity cannot be delegated to others, while you put your feet up and wait.

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    2. Legal action will be listened to by the employer and encourage more people to join the union.

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  10. Napo can't save you. Only you can save you. It's all about saving your own ass. Dog eat dog. Sharpen your teeth boys and gals cos the biggest dogs always win. I've survived. You can too

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    1. Sad but true, except that in probation and the public sector it's usually the sneaky, slippery "yes" men/women that last the longest.

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  11. Sneaky and slippery yes men and women? Have a word with yourself and don't be so rude about people. People who say yes may be too scared to say no. Or are too polite too. Not ruthless or rude. God I cannot stand people being so nasty to others.

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  12. The PQOs are coming in the NPS to nick our jobs. We have founded our own union in our office and we are refusing to train them. No observing is being agreed to at all. This is people power as they will never get any cases. I suggest all in the NPS fight this as they will take our jobs!! A union starts in the office you were with!!

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  13. Sorry, meant PSOs

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  14. The Union should be fighting this. Untrained staff working with Sex Offenders. IN Yorkshire we have admin doing PSO roles. They are being used until the recruitment comes and then guess what, admin again. No programmes for sex offenders unless they score high on RM 2000. Treating folks like cattle!!

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  15. That's dangerous and disgraceful. We have a PSO starting with no experience. Used to work in a bank. What happens if there is an SFO with one of her cases. Lambs to the slaughter not cattle!

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  16. Form your own union, office by office and fuck NAPO!!!

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    1. Well, I can assure you that some of us ARE standing firm and have never stopped fighting. Can I suggest one battle that can be won next week? EVERY NAPO MEMBER NEEDS TO GET TO AGM AND VOTE TO KEEP THE CURRENT NNC MACHINERY. Even if you only come for the day - MAKE A DIFFERENCE!!
      PS It has been said before, but I for one am willing to contribute to a fund to pay for a test case.

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    2. An unrecognised 'union' is simply a group of disgruntled workers making demands and threats who employees don't have to listen to if they choose not to. They are keen for people to participate in employees councils etc as an alternative to union activity. A group of disgruntled workers prepared to take action who join a recognised union might have a chance of getting somewhere. Don't listen to employers propaganda and join a recognised union.

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  17. Strike action is a last resort but I feel Working Links staff have reached this point. The employers will walk all over the staff, as did Sodexo, so learn from this episode and don't let it happen to you. Don't rely on any union assistance other than making them (for legal reasons)call the strike. Insist on it and don't worry about the impact a strike may have on your clients - the vast majority will be on your side. Get yourselves in the newspapers and let the general public know what is really happening .......but it needs a strike to get anyone's' attention. Good luck.

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