Defending National Collective Bargaining - Issue 2 Feb 2017
In the last edition of Defending National Collective Bargaining, we reported that the elected National Officers had met to decide on how to respond to the result of the indicative ballot on possible industrial action to defend existing national collective bargaining arrangements.
This bulletin offers clarification as to the Officers decision with regard to developing specific bargaining arrangements with NPS and CRC employers.
Some important facts
Following the result of the Indicative Ballot the Officer Group assessed the response from those members who had taken part and after a considered debate, with differing views, it was collectively agreed that there was not yet sufficient evidence to support a move to a formal ballot for industrial action at this stage. Consequently, and given that all employers had announced their intention to withdraw from the NNC, a decision had to be made as to whether Napo should now engage in developing bargaining structures with the NPS and the CRC owners, or simply stand aside and leave engagement with the employer in the sole hands of UNISON.
Since the AGM, all employers have been seeking union engagement on possible arrangements for future negotiation and consultation if the NNC were to cease. Until such time as we were able to assess the response from members in the indicative ballot, Napo reserved its position on formally agreeing to the proposals as per the decision taken at the AGM, but has sought to ensure that commitments have been included in the draft versions which match our overall objectives to defend collective bargaining and, as members would expect, reflect our primary responsibility and obligation to protect members interests at the workplace.
NNC no longer exists but Napo's agenda remains live
We have done everything possible to try and convince the employers to remain in the NNC, indeed we have been doing so ever since the employers threatened to withdraw from this over a year ago, but once NOMS had decided to carry out their long standing intention to pull out, the CRC owners followed suit. Nearly all employers have now withdrawn from the NNC or are in the process of doing so. The NNC mechanisms will not be restored.
In light of these developments a vote was taken within the Officer Group which resulted in a clear majority decision to ask local negotiators to develop employer specific collective bargaining models, with full-time Napo Officials directly leading any negotiations. In such talks, Napo will be demanding nationally agreed positions. For example, in the 2017-18 pay negotiations Napo will produce a single national claim across all employers, and the National Executive Committee will be asked to assess the impact of negotiations against this benchmark. We are confident that the structures being proposed, will recognise the protected existing contractual guarantees encompassed in the NNC Handbook and National Staff Transfer and Protections Agreement (both of which remain in force even without the NNC machinery) which were agreed prior to share sale. Consultation about non-contractual local policies and practices will continue to happen locally, as they did under the former Trust and NNC structures, with Napo ensuring that the key issues which impact on our members at the workplace will be negotiated and supported by Full Time Officials in partnership with members and activists.
We intend to put more resources into training and support for our local representatives than ever before; this is in reaction to the scale of local challenges, such as workloads, and because of the strain of negotiating with multiple CRC owners and the demanding agenda being faced by our members in the NPS and Probation Board Northern Ireland.
Planning for Industrial Action
To be absolutely clear, the foregoing does not mean that Napo has ruled out the prospect of future industrial action; but in order for this to stand any chance of success we all need to all pull together and lay the foundations for a hard-hitting campaign that if needs be will seriously impact on the employer and which works best for our members.
Based on the current mood amongst members to move to industrial action now, (as evidenced in the indicative ballot turnout and direct feedback from our activists), any notion that we would ask our members to sacrifice wages for token industrial action and potentially wreck our ability to wage a national campaign in the future, would be both tactically naïve and irresponsible. Members should remain confident that where a majority of members respond to a call for action on a significant issue then Napo will respond accordingly. The National Executive Committee meets in March and will have a full opportunity to make an important contribution to the ongoing debate about Napo’s industrial strategy in defence of collective bargaining. As indicated previously, we have made it very clear to all employers that Napo is prepared to fight for fair pay and equal treatment for all of our members, wherever they work.
Napo Officers Group
Napo General Secretary