Tuesday, 15 November 2016

CRC Dispute Latest 12

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.


  1. "No to Job Cuts...yes to fair play for staff...probation trade unions standing up for you!"

    ... I'm sure the miners and Arthur Scargill said something similar in the 80's. Look how that ended!

    1. ... although this is not the 80's and and effective union should be able to hold the employeers to account.

  2. As someone who lived through the VS travesty by Sodexo last year can I offer some thoughts to those SW CRC staff caught in the should I/shouldn't I trap?

    1. Staff didn't have any positive union backing in the form you have, no talks & certainly no ACAS. It does sound like lessons have been learned by the unions & local activism is very impressive.
    2. Staff were mercilessly bullied by Sodexo via local collaborators, the fear & distress for staff being evident as timescales shortened, at which point levels of anger & resentment were very high.
    3. The VS agreement was exceptionally restrictive, a straight jacket & gag to keep people under control & silent. Even backdated pay rises were lost.
    4. The VS agreement was an insult, but some felt it was better than being managed out the back door under Sodexo disciplinary procedures - an implied threat from some of Sodexo's cutest operators.
    5. The SW CRC staff have strong union support & the matter has reached ACAS, with the Lurkers clearly not playing ball. The political climate is very different & Hindson has been levered out the door.

    In the Sodexo situation I would have taken VS & cleared off. It was toxic, it was bitter & extremely damaging to peoples' health & well-being.

    However in your position, on balance I would stay & fight for the full EVR.

    1. I completely agree with you 08:18.

    2. I mean 07:18!

    3. I hope it works out. The shame is the union response isn't more consistent across CRC's and NPS.

    4. Something often missed about the Sodexo scenario was that most of those taking VS were not union members, either because they had never been so or had left whichever union they were in due to their union's inaction & silence.

      The current SW CRCs have the benefit of very active & tenacious union work - clearly something being driven locally by vigorous, informed & passionate reps.

    5. Contrary to the sobbing, heartbroken Hindson who has been elbowed out it is perhaps worth remembering that in Sodexo's CLCRC both Chief Execs cleard out at the earliest opportunity - Big Bad Kev on the day before ownership transferred across (having done all the preliminary dirty work he presumably knew how much dirtier it was going to get?) and Bigger Badder Penny who saw off busloads of staff through the shitty VS debacle but didn't last much longer; both served about 18 months before baling with generous financial packages. Wonder if their treachery ever keeps them awake?

      By contrast we have members of the POA today saying they would rather continue to orotest and face jail terms than collude with or perpetuate dangerous conditions for prisoners & staff in the prisons estate. That is principled commitment.

    6. Well the health and safety aspect is a major part of the SW dispute. Our branch was well informed of the deliberate tactic of working links Hinson and all not to release the operational plan service design to the national unions or to share any local service arrangements properly. All played out now and the unions have not penetrated the wall of silence and game playing but they will in time I am told.

  3. 7:18 thank you for sharing, I hope CRC staff everywhere reflect on this and gain some strength in numbers, as it is an incredibly stressful situation. I for one, would never criticize or judge people for the decisions they make. We all have our own issues, and a disenfranchised workforce is unlikely to make progress where the unions have failed. I hope ACAS bring some pressure to bear on Aurelius/WL.

  4. Working links should withdraw their services from saudi arabia and aurelius should enforce this. Not to do so is to endorse saudi arabia's genocide in Yemen where children are dying daily
    Do the right thing.

    1. Maybe but that is a side issue to the crises faced by current employees in England for who I commiserate. I hope workers will not only stand together but those not in umion membership join now - whatever their past reasons for not being a member the UNIONS do have legally enforcable negotiating rights and so there is some hope of a positive outcome, although it might seem bleak now.

      Additionally the Transforming Rehabilitation programme has more publicly failed than when Sodexo were behaving despicably to those who gave them their income. The government is being forced to think again.

      For example at 12.30 pm TODAY there is to be an urgent question to The Secretary of State for Justice In the House od Commons by Richard Burgon, the Opposition Justice shadow secertary of state, on the prisons crisis that has been exposed by POA members taking action TODAY. Hopefully at least one MP who is called by the Speaker will be briefed to make a link between the danger in prisons to the problems the MOJ has caused in Probation.

      Hopefully that will be watchable live via this link and later a link to hear a repeat will be reachable from the same website: -


    2. The short House of Commons debate was dreadful and seemed a waste of a question to me.

  5. Thousands of prison officers in England have stopped work amid health and safety concerns, their union has said.
    The Prison Officers Association said up to 10,000 members would take part in the day of protest, which would be "interpreted as a strike", after talks with the government broke down.
    It said members would provide only emergency cover to protect prisoners' well-being.


  6. Minister Gymiah on R4 making a total fudge of any answer, blaming POA & dismissing Grayling's historical bollox of massive staff cuts, i.e. a major contributory reason for the current crisis, as "that was in the past".

    The Nasty Party are on the loose, unfettered, steamrollering evrrything & everyone in their way.

  7. 14.41 Be in no doubt, Dino is beating them up, our dispute and move to ACAS would not have happened without his leadership. Read his branch reports on this blog. No other CRC has had the challenges Working Links have had. Grateful thanks to Dino and his reps I'm still employed for now

    1. If Dino is that good why wasn't he elected by the membership for Chair??? Missed opportunity? Would have thought your branch had a strong voice? What happened?

  8. Can we get these branch reports together in one place they are not easily read on here I have been looking through but not an easy order.

  9. Perusing news stories and struck me that Nick Clegg wants to say something about drugs reform and he gets air time. But thousands of Prison and Probation staff spend months and years making noises about their problems due to changes forced upon them and news coverage is incredibly sparse, slow burn, almost a conspiracy by its absence until the proverbial dollop of manure hits the fan and even then a passing headline. I find it perplexing.

  10. Prison, my parents and me BBC1 tonight at 10.45 for children in need. Narrated by Dr Who! Who would believe it?