This bulletin is the first in a series of updates for Napo activists working in the National Probation Service, the Probation Service Northern Ireland, or a Community Rehabilitation Company. Please ensure that you take the time to read it and discuss it with members in your workplaces. It can also be referenced in your contact with non-members as part of Napo's recruitment campaign.
Industrial action options following the Indicative Ballot
We have now had the result of the indicative ballot that we issued in December as a follow up to the direction contained in the AGM resolution.
The Officer Group have agreed the recommendation from the General Secretary that it would not be in Napo’s tactical interests to publish the result since it would reveal much to the employer about the strength of feeling in particular areas.
That said, it is clear from the feedback that we have received and willingness to take industrial action from over 70% of those who returned their ballot, that a head of steam is starting to build up amongst members on their willingness to take action to defend National Collective Bargaining.
On that basis, the Officers have agreed that calling Industrial Action merely to try and restore the NNC machinery would not be in our members interests and that the energy needed would distract us from the likelihood of industrial action on other issues. For example, it is clear that Napo now needs to prepare for the possibility of major industrial campaigns on pay, where we expect to see National Collective Bargaining standards applied to all of our members across the NPS, PBNI and CRCs; and workloads, where it is evident that many members are facing huge difficulties. Indeed, we have today issued specific material on Workloads as per BR03/2017
We want to express our appreciation for the considerable efforts of our activists in helping to secure a reasonably respectable turnout in the indicative ballot. This was an important test of our member’s feelings about this key issue.
For some 12 months the established National Negotiating Council structure has been under threat as NOMS and CRC employers have signaled their intention to move to separate single table bargaining arrangements. Napo and the Probation unions have worked hard to prevent the demise of the NNC; but by last autumn it became obvious that this prospect would soon become a reality.
At Napo’s hugely successful AGM in Wales last year the conference sent out a clear response that Napo should launch a campaign to defend national collective bargaining.
The following motion was carried:
Defend national collective bargaining
The National Agreement on Staff Transfer and Protections signed 28th January 2014 gives a specific undertaking to protect national collective bargaining. This is summarised in paragraph 21 where it states:
“It is agreed that the existing national collective bargaining arrangements will continue in the CRCs and NPS on 1 June 2014 by means of the Staff Transfer Scheme. The NNC and SCCOG machinery will also continue to apply to new staff.”Post share sale a number of CRC owners are threatening to replace national collective bargaining with completely local arrangements. While a few staff may benefit from locally competitive local pay and conditions, in all likelihood this will result in a ‘race to the bottom’ in most areas. More importantly, it will torpedo Napo’s stated aim of achieving a nationally agreed, fair and equitable pay structure.
Officers and Officials are instructed to oppose any attempt to break up national collective bargaining and to launch a campaign amongst members in any CRC that threatens to withdraw from current NNC/SCCOG arrangements.
What has happened since then?
Soon after the AGM it became clear that NOMS intended to follow through with their policy to withdraw from the NNC and just before Christmas, Napo and the probation unions received formal notice to that effect. As we had predicted, this subsequently resulted in all CRCs also indicating their withdrawal from the NNC with effect from the end of January/early February. As you would expect there were a series of meetings with some especially heated exchanges with NOMS senior management as well as exchanges of correspondence.
Following an invitation from the Director of Probation, Napo and the probation unions are still engaged in talks with ACAS to consider how they might assist in establishing some transitional arrangements to ensure that employers recognise their obligations to abide by NNC legacy policies and the National Staff Transfer and Protections Agreement despite the end of the NNC in its present form. More news on this will be issued following the next scheduled meeting early next month.
What happens next?
The indicative ballot, whilst encouraging in many respects, indicates that we still have a considerable amount of work to do in order to build sufficient momentum for industrial action on a national basis.
This does not rule out the use of industrial action in CRC specific disputes or those that may emerge in the NPS, or PBNI. Should our members call for such ballots to be held then Napo will respond immediately.
The Officers have carefully considered the ballot result and have determined that in order to protect members from the possibility of being left out in the cold as local negotiating machinery is being developed (UNISON policy is contrary to that from our AGM) the following policy statement was agreed:
As the NNC will cease to exist from 31st January following the withdrawal from all the employers, we must allow negotiators to engage with employers to develop bargaining machinery. Any negotiating body constitutions should be ratified by the NEC and any agreements should be brought back to Officers and Officials to ensure consistency and adherence to national policy.
This effectively means that Napo activists working alongside your Link Officers and Officials should now seek to develop bargaining machinery specific to the relevant employer whilst making it absolutely clear that final assent to such arrangements will only secure Napo agreement if they are consistent with existing NNC policies and National agreements and standards.
We will be issuing information to individual members by mail-out to keep them informed, but CRC branch activists should engage with their National Link Officials to discuss the approach to be taken on pan-CRC negotiating machinery in light of the policy statement above.
Enquiries in respect of this bulletin should in the first instance be directed to your National Link Officer or Official who will if necessary liaise with Napo Head Office.
Finally our thanks to all of our activists for their continued support for Napo members in what is the most testing industrial landscape that this union has ever had to operate in.
Napo Officers Group:
Chris Winters, Yvonne Pattison, Katie Lomas, Chas Berry, Chris Pearson, Jay Barlow
Napo General Secretary