Thursday, 22 September 2016

Napo at Work in the South West 5

As always, thanks go to the reader for forwarding the latest news from the South West:-

Branch report Redundancies update 13

Dear members,
The National election for Chairs has now been concluded and I am sorry that my total was just not enough. Whether I could have made any difference substantial or otherwise to the future of the union can never be known. Too often these days I am resigned to saying “we are where we are” and getting here has been at the odd decisions and direction of wider events that drive us. The result while disappointing comes from another low turnout and should be of concern. It appears to indicate a low interest level of our membership. Sadly this disengagement by potential voting members is illustrated in part by reduced voting trends. It is concerning as none of the candidates could claim much of a mandate on the cast votes.

Nevertheless we have the incumbent chairs in place and continuity of the same is inevitable yet we have to think carefully and to ensure we stay with our union, get behind them. We have a full suite of officers in the leadership fully conversant as NPS employees and that level of structure may well be clover for NPS representation. All good then for the purposes and understandings for the way the civil service is dictating the changes.

Sadly for the NPS membership the E3 agenda has started to make itself felt. Not so much in mass change but in the actual confirmation it has started to implement a negative blueprint for staff changes across the board. No matter how many National Napo fielded have from the NPS to combat the worst aspects the losses to terms and conditions they seem to continue to mount up and look relatively unchallenged. The terrible outcome of the VLO situation is shrouded in a controversy. From their perspective of what actually led them to a pay band cut, no hope of any equalising for those already underpaid and worst no chance of climbing on a now frozen time marking pay structure. This is not the only issue that dominates my fear as many will argue it was pre-determined NPS desired outcome. It is exactly that which worries me. Is this the first of many more to come downgrading in both pay and job descriptions? Anyone in the NPS will need to give the position a long and carful look as E3 unfolds. The Hostel staff also affected and worst to come the discussions on privatisation of aspects of the night waking cover arrangements.

What we have to ensure is that we remain strong within CRCs now that our national union is so obviously favoured in the officers structure from the NPS. Couple this to the issue of the debate seeking permission from the membership on the dis-continuation of National Collective Bargaining to be debated at the AGM. If this falls to the regions, local CRCs, will inevitably destroy the unity we have as s single probation union. It would not be long before all terms are re negotiated or imposed and all existing policies will be assigned a comfortable place in the bin of the TR destruction. That said I am aware the General Secretary is clear that he wants to ensure all current policy terms are protected for a period in a legacy agreement.

I could never support any further moves to reduce the capacity of NAPO from national- collective bargaining. In this regard working constructively within NAPO the South-West dispute has taken the whole region forward in unity. Facing the determined yet awful ways Working Links the company have continued to neglect effective trade union consultation and negotiation. Our members facing unreasonable and multiple work and role changes the spectre of redundancies looming. Continued issue of S188 notices example poor practices. Because this was done to us without any real dialogue. (I wrote previously) it was mentioned in passing in a presentation slide last October. Following that the incredibly premature S188 notices set the combative situation as a formality ever since.

Recently at the second of three dispute meetings in London the General Secretary Ian Lawrence put similar points to working links with Glyn Jones to withdraw the notices come back to a fresh table and start to work towards areas that might be agreeable in the longer terms. Exit Schemes for staff at risk and to follow properly, agreed redeployment process across counties if necessary. To follow the best agreeable redundancy process and those already laid out in local terms. These remain protected under the period of contract while the staff transfer and protection arrangements are binding agreements. He expects the employers to honour. Pointing out they bought the contract in the knowledge of the policies and the terms. In fact the GS had also made it clear to members in the recent bulletin circulated mid September. All the senior heads of Union are united in this dispute as they all understand the DDC redundancy policy is the cornerstone of fair and agreed process for the dismissals of staff if the worst is to happen.

What the Unions find unacceptable and just simply not credible is that Working Links want to Axe over 140+ DDC staff by March end next year 2017. They claim they cannot \ will not slow the process yet new recruitment has continued rather than redeployment and retraining for existing substantive staff. Job insecurity has become a tool in the WL efforts to drive staff into roles borne from uncertainty of future. We have a range of selection recruitment issues coming to the fore. Jobs without description and no mention of pay rates. Members are complaining rightly so, of the continued feeling of a mis-managed process. It might be wiser to think this is a well managed process in the way the reorganisation establishes itself and will leave a lot of members displaced. Is probation being discarded for modern messaging now being delivered? The new way with a fraction of the skilled people. These approaches are not what many staff will have experienced in the past.

It is certain other areas will likely face similar in the future. Once CRCs get a foothold on local bargaining, your terms on pay working hour’s annual leave and so on will be fast on the agenda. Members will realise employers are likely to cut away any policy that supports staff in the ways that we have previously understood. Our most recent experience of this has been the tabling on the agenda of the DDC redundancy policy itself. Of all the policies that could do with an update any employee supportive policy. No, nothing, silence in fact. We had in local JNCC talked of the harmonisation expectations that were expected to be part of our working relationships which were flatly rejected. It has been no surprise to us in the JNCC that this policy agreement your terms and conditions which has been collectively agreed in the past would have come under the spotlight now. Working Links the company actually believe that because the policy has a review period written in as do all policies that this is the time they want to table a changes discussion. Reviews are written in as standard to recognise legislative issues that may arise or look to work for both sides to see what improvements could be made in the light of operational practice. Clearly Working Links the company have no interest in actually delivering on the current redundancy agreement because by doing so they will have inadvertently accepted the terms contained in that policy implementation. Oddly though by attempting to look at it through JNCC this quickly makes it clear this policy is one they must need to damage. Just as small point on pay negotiations redundancy is Pay and the argument for a 3 year protection on Pay related issues issue comes alive. Also phased a changes over a period of time is something that any negotiation will need to understand. We will keep you informed as soon as the JNCC are restored and after the disputes heads are settled if that is possible.

However, much of the redundancy policy has already been avoided in the current ways they have set about changing what was probation. The employers know this, which, is why staff have been subjected to the inappropriate 1-1 interviews outside of any agreement. This process is underpinned by lawful requirements yet Working Links have not demonstrated a competent approach to this after the catalogue of failure. This being a strand of the dispute. Much of it without proper notice, or real cooperative support for the Unions representation. Hurried examples where staff are contacted by telephone or have been called in from sickness to take part. Absolutely staggering examples of how not to do things yet claiming to be a fair and equitable employer. Hardly!

In the current round of dispute talks the employers want to claim that they are listening and dialogue should continue locally. It is clear and was made obvious, while a national dispute is running over reductions, the methods of selections, the current activities around recruitment, the untested and non-verified new model of working and the Innovation Wessex claims of true independence. Wessex drawing its funding entirely from Working Links despite an unverified claim to the contrary. We rightly remain sceptical that in fact any jobs should be lost. We need to be convinced that the monies are not in fact being redeployed for other structures and plans. Member’s jobs sacrificed to fund them.

While on funding discussions we found it incredible while national dispute is running and the General Secretary has reported this already, we listened to Working Links offer a revised position downwards for voluntary redundancy amounts. This worked out to 22 week reductions in total over the 15 years maximum.

It felt an absurd position, as to whether Working Links the company are serious about being seen as sincere. Coming to a dispute meeting with a genuine intention seeking to resolve issues is doubtful on this current form? From that point we have now had a secondary London meeting and have been arguing the status of the rates of the terms the periods of protections. The legitimate needs to equalise the best in terms for the region as Working Links the company plough on regardless of fairness. There is no point in saying anymore readers will get the point now.

As of today 20 Sept the there is a fourth meeting with Working Links the Company and the heads of the 3 unions In Weston. I doubt at time of writing there will be any breakthrough agreements or the forming of a new treaty. Instead it will probably see us move to joint secretaries and beyond as long as Working Links continue to fail to adopt and follow legitimate terms of all our members’ contracts and the national staff protections. Ian Lawrence has been incredibly patient and although I am not part of the closed team today I am optimistic given negotiations can be harder line as we have a legitimate starting base. Whatever happens I am expecting a wider report as Working Links constantly cry confidentiality and a secretive furtive need to stop disclosing issues. What are they talking about I ask myself. Occasionally hearing business risk or some other hackneyed claim. It is wearing.

Members it is important to remind us all that none of this defensive work is possible if we do not act as a collective. The Chair of NAPO BGSW Ceris Handley who is always in touch and supportive of the combined strengths from Wales Napo reps and chair Pen Gwilliam and Migden Roberts. Thought provoking and single minded. We have all worked collectively in our member’s interests and of course to protect us all.

The General Secretary Ian Lawrence has played no small part in that alongside his counterpart Unison and GMB. In this difficult period of positioning and what is increasingly hostile sometimes toxic environment. It is important to keep matters in perspective. Our Union sides remain solid in our intentions to hold any breaches of staff terms and conditions by Working links to account by whatever means appropriate. The General Secretary demonstrably made efforts to work to agreements and achievable ends in the interests of NAPO and union members. Some of what is reported has not been accurate and the recognition of leadership and good team solidarity has to be remarked upon here. We are a capable group and with your ongoing support we have some clear opportunities to ensure our conditions of service are honoured.

I am sure this report will no doubt make its way onto the On Probation Blog. I know we have differing views but it has to made clear in these types of open branch reports to members that circulation is incredible when viewed by Facebook and others. It is a wide media readership and I am always a little concerned to read the permutations offered as to what will happen what should be done next who’s doing what and all the rest. In the SSW branch we have a position we have a structured plan and we are managing the process as difficult as it is. Please don’t speculate what the options might be it does not help our thinking. We are conscious of the dissatisfaction the employers Working Links the company take at reading Branch reports they get widely circulated to our all Napo audience. I do not understand why if they are proud of their treatments and management of our members.

I make this point now because at some point in mid-October time limits for notifications will get closer and the agenda to drive those cuts either voluntary or compulsory will be the focus of attention. Napo will then look to you as members to support our media campaign press, TV, radio public and MPs to challenge the situation that we are facing. Large cuts are news and the views of professional practioners on what will be the consequences will be valuable. Anecdotal stories of your experiences the recruitments the leaver’s stories and why many felt they were pushed out on timing than supported. All these will feature as we challenge to reject anymore of the current trend.

In the meantime keep reporting to the branch exec and Denice James all you can and the way things are running and we will log them for the records and reporting. Stay in Napo get colleagues and non-members to join us in a stronger movement to help protect them further and to look to how you will be able to help the branch as we start to look at what needs to be done as matters may well continue to escalate.

Please Print a copy or two of this update and leave them around for non-members by all means to read and join Napo now. Share as widely as you choose to ensure we get full support from our Napo membership. Would the helpful Napo member who encouraged the BBC to contact me recently, do so again thanks? Any other support welcome through the branch and please attend the Plymouth meeting on Weds 21st 2:00pm.

Dino Peros SSW Branch Chair JNCC Representative.


  1. What are napo going to do about the appalling working conditions for some staff in south west? the programmes staff in bristol have been moved to an office that is not fit for purpose, filthy and tatty and no health and safety considerations. Running bbr group and having to walk to their cars some distance away at 9.30pm in challenging part of bristol. I hope working links have deep pockets to afford the claims that will come through if a member of staff is assaulted.

    1. Direct quote from a participant:
      "If this programme is supposed to be so good, how come you run it in a shit hole in St. Paul's?"

  2. Have the local SW Napo and Unison health and safety reps been contacted by their members about these concerns of the Programmes team? If so then to find out what the Unions actions are you'd need to speak to the local reps.

  3. Same situation in Wales.

  4. Working Links are a joke. Believe me they have lost all respect from the vast majority of employees across Wales and the South West . We all know that this industry is completely reliant on its staff. Unfortunately WL have not grasped this and that staff are their only assets . Do Aurelius have any idea what they have bought in to?

    1. I am sure Aurelius know what they have bought into. They know the framework agreement offers no protections to staff, it has already been breached by Sodexo who went directly to individuals to negotiate reduced EVR. WL will do the same. The framework agreement has been declared as unfit for purpose less than two years after the employers signed up, so it's not worth the paper it's written on. Aurelius will get the freedom to locally negotiate just as all CRC's will. The only way to make some profit will be through cutting costs and staff will bear the brunt. The race to the bottom is underway. If national collective bargaining is not a red line for the unions, then nothing is.

    2. Re. Sodexo - It wasn't reduced EVR it was a severence payment which is completely different from EVR and hence why they were able to do it. They didn't breach any agreements/ local policies in doing this. Had staff sat tight and refused the severence offers then they would've had to have got rid of staff via the policy i.e. Before compulsory redundancy the route of EVR had to be taken. However they preyed on a demoralised workforce who just wanted to get out quickly.

    3. Exactly! It's an open secret that WL HAVE to shed staff. All staff need to do is sit tight and refuse to look at any offer that is less than EVR. WL would then have to go down the compulsory redundancy route - probably shedding the same staff who would have gone under EVR - and would therefore havd to adhere to the local redundancy policy; which, as the SSW Chair points out, within DDC is virtually comparable to EVR.

    4. On 17/6/15 Napo wrote to Sodexo: 'Napo and UNISON and GMB SCOOP are opposed to your proposals to offer inferior enhanced voluntary redundancy terms (EVR), compared to the NNC/NNC SCCOG EVR scheme, to staff in this CRC, as directed by the owners Sodexo'.

      Call it severance if you want or call it reduced EVR – no difference in reality. I am not as confident as you are that staff refusal would have forced Sodexo towards EVR. Napo have never said to its members that we can guarantee the employer will have to go down the EVR route if everyone sits tight. What played out in Sodexo will be repeated elsewhere.

    5. Some comments here are raising false hopes. Sodexo refused to pay EVR and nothing could be done and it will be the same with WL. Last August when the Napo leadership met with Sodexo:

      'At the meeting Sodexo confirmed that it will not offer EVR, so we are now in discussions to improve the voluntary severance'. (Napo 70)

      And on 7/8/15, the local branch vice-chair, in Sodexoland, told members:

      'There are those who are wondering whether there is any merit in holding out for a ‘better offer’. Sodexo have made it clear that there will be no better offer. There is still a slim chance that the outcome of the indicative ballot by NAPO and UNISON could secure improvements to ‘the offer’ but, equally, it may achieve nothing'. (Jeremy Sharples, Napo vice-chair) As we know it achieved nothing!

      If they won't pay EVR, they cannot be forced to. If there had been an easy legal remedy, Napo would have sought one with Sodexo. There isn't – the employers can ignore the framework agreement with legal impunity.

    6. Having been involved in a Sodexo area, my understanding is that the EVR offer had to be 'considered'. It can then be dismissed as unaffordable. The vol. severance was taken by people who believed a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. The question is, do you believe that Sodexo, Working Links or any other of these parasites will ever 'do the right thing'? I know where I stood and I walked away with less than EVR (boo) and more than the statutory minimum (hurrah). 'Fighting' for a better deal had, in my final two years as a NAPO member and Probation employee, achieved pretty much nothing and it was time to walk away. Glad I did. Not because I didn't love Probation but because the Probation I loved no longer exists in any shape or form.

    7. It's reported that the South West have a collective agreement on redundancy which provides enhanced rates not far below the EVR in the framework agreement. I assume that there was no comparable collective agreement in the Sodexo area. If the SW staff have employment rights to contractual redundancy pay, then perhaps they are in an inherently stronger position than colleagues who were dealt with by Sodexo, and to volunteer for redundancy in the SW would result in a degraded EVR payment than what would be paid via compulsory redundancy.

    8. N'bria (Sodexo) had a policy for redundancy in place which had EVR in it hence why a severence was offered, thereby didn't breach anything. Don't hold your breath for an EVR in the SW as they'll have taken tips on wriggling out of anything from Sodexo

  5. Respect goes to the Branch Chair for his commitment and resilience and lets hope he has national backing from the General Secretary this time. Press and media coverage is exactly the right way to expose the shame of these robbers who believe its ok to take a lifetime career and pensions from loyal staff who in many cases have given significant years of service. NAPO credibility could be restored if they stand strong against this atrocity, whatever it takes

  6. At some point surely this will go bang. I'm absolutely amazed the Gov has managed to spin this sorry mess as a success for this long. Just goes to show where there is a will there's a way!

  7. By email from a reader unable to post this comment:-

    We have seen more signs of Working Links disdain for the unions today, with the removal - without prior consultation - of a Napo/Unison noticeboard in the CRC part of the Plymouth office. Rumour has it that it will be replaced with a giant WL motivational poster...

    1. haha, I love a good motivational poster.

    2. The union noticeboard has been replaced with a giant "Welcome to our Operational Hub" poster. Completely pointless, a waste of money, divisive demotivating and disrespectful. Oh, wait a minute, that sums up Working Links very neatly!

  8. Can somebody publish the redundancy policy for S.W please - why is it so good