Joint statement from Napo, Unison and GMB:-
For urgent distribution to all trade union members across the three Working Links owned Community Rehabilitation Companies
No to Job Cuts...yes to fair play for staff...probation trade unions standing up for you!
11th November 2016
DISPUTE LATEST - Unions expect to meet with Aurelius at ACAS
In the last joint unions report we indicated that following the interim determination by the National Negotiating Council Joint Secretaries, we had taken up the invitation to participate in urgent mediation through the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) to explore whether a resolution of the dispute between the Aurelius/ Working Links CRC's and the probation unions was possible.
Despite every effort by the trade union team to make progress during a number of meetings, and the excellent efforts of the senior ACAS conciliator who is assisting the parties, the talks have been hard going with little sign so far that the parent company is prepared to offer any concessions or recognise their obligations to staff. Many of the issues and the processes previously set in train by the CRC's, under instruction by their owner, have created many barriers to an agreement.
Recently, the unions offered a number of suggestions around the three principle areas of the dispute (payment of EVR, the size of the staff cuts that are intended to take place by 31st March next year, and our serious concerns about the Operational Model around quality and public safety. Unfortunately we have seen little indication that the employers side want to take the opportunity to find a way forward.
Senior Aurelius representative set to appear at next meeting
In what is a clear sign of our frustration at the lack of progress so far, the unions have insisted that we should have the opportunity to engage with a senior representative of Aurelius and we have been told that Working Links Director Stephen Moon (who we have been led to believe is on secondment to Working Links from Aurelius) has the full authority of Aurelius to intervene in the talks at ACAS. We can but hope that we at last meet someone from the employers side who has some influence.
Our considered view is that Monday most likely represents the last chance for the parties to make any kind of progress before they report back to the NNC Joint Secretaries as they were directed to.
The ACAS talks have at least established that Aurelius are the real owner of your CRC employers which is why we rejected an offer last week to receive financial data about Working Links which would have been conditional on a confidentiality agreement, as we believe this is information that the unions are entitled to in order to inform collective bargaining.
This is just one more example of how difficult it has been to secure co-operation from the employers side and pave the way for serious negotiation. Over the weekend we will be working on a detailed letter that we want to see form the basis of the agenda for Mondays talks at ACAS.
Voluntary Severance- a shoddy situation
As members are aware we have consistently said that in our view the voluntary severance (VS) scheme on which decisions are being notified to applicants is a substandard offer that falls well short of your entitlement and which we refuse to endorse especially since some staff have already received awards under the Enhanced Voluntary Redundancy Scheme (EVR).
Many members have been contacting their union reps seeking advice on whether or not to accept a VS offer and we are not authorised to give, what is essentially financial advice, on this issue.
Acceptance of early severance which is effectively a resignation remains a matter for volunteers and is entirely a personal choice. It is something that the employer has determined they want to offer you to avoid their obligations. Our general view is that staff should consider staying within your posts and wait to see what efforts the employers make to agree your entitlements under your CRC compulsory redundancy agreement.
Meanwhile we have called on Aurelius / Working Links to withdraw their notice to review these policies whilst we are in a dispute.
What should be happening?
We are maintaining that as CRC's have different existing compulsory redundancy agreements the employer should have opened discussions long ago and offered us engagement under the terms of these policies. They have chosen not to do so whilst at the same time issuing highly misleading information to the effect that the unions are standing in the way of constructive dialogue.
The many issues before us in this dispute are complicated but the Unions position is to maintain secure jobs, proper roles and current terms throughout the life of this contract.
Performance claims hide some unpalatable truths about the Operational Model
In a recent communique to staff, the soon to depart Director of Justice Services has claimed that Working Links performance against its obligations to the Ministry of Justice, are the second highest of all providers.
Its hardly surprising given our members experience of the underlying operational shambles around premises, allocation of resources, non-existent job descriptions, directives to not undertake breaches and the failure of delivery on Through the Gate (admittedly not exclusive to the three CRC's in their contract) that we have received some very cynical views about this distortion of the facts.
By Working Links own admission, there are fundamental problems around the contract they and other CRC owners signed and some serious questions being asked by NOMS about their (and other CRC owners) ability and sustainability to deliver what they said they would at the time of the share sale.
We have increasing concerns which are attracting significant media interest about the link between a suspect and unproven operational model that we believe is already placing the public at risk and the possible links to recent SFO incidents.
Stick with your trade union
Whatever happens at the ACAS talks your position will be stronger by members staying in your trade union and encouraging colleagues who are not members to join up.
More news will follow as soon as it becomes available.