For distribution to all trade union members across the three Working Links owned Community Rehabilitation Companies
No to further Job Cuts...yes to fair play for staff… probation trade unions standing up for you!
DISPUTE LATEST - Talks set to resume but dispute is still live
At long last the National Negotiating Council Joint Secretaries have issued a letter to all the parties in the dispute recommending a route for the resumption of discussion on a number of key issues impacting on staff and operations. Meanwhile, the unions wish to make it clear that until we see tangible evidence that Aurelius/Working Links intend to engage meaningfully with us, then the dispute that has been running since last summer will continue
Joint Secretaries determination
Whilst the National Negotiating Council itself has ceased to exist following the withdrawal by nearly all of the Employers, the dispute with the employer was established before this happened and a meeting took place between the parties, the Joint Secretaries and a representative from NOMS Contract and Commercial Directorate in January.
Given the difficulties that had been experienced in the talks held under the auspices of ACAS there was a huge amount of written evidence that needed to be taken into account and this has contributed to the delay in being in a position to issue news on a collective basis. The Joint Secretarial determination is attached to this letter and the unions are now considering the initial response that we have received from Aurelius/Working Links to this and our future strategy, and we will report further to members as soon as we can. If meetings are held in your branch or workplace, do try to take part and there is an ideal opportunity on 28th April on International Workers Memorial day to join in some union lunchtime demonstrations about workloads. News on that to follow.
Meanwhile, arrangements are being made to set a date for the resumption of talks where we hope it will be possible to deal with some urgently pressing issues. If these exchanges go well our aim is to try and work through the long list of subjects that the Joint Secretaries have identified as being central to any chances of resolving this long running and in our view unnecessary dispute.
What the dispute has achieved so far
It’s a fact that just being in dispute does not in itself mean that employers (whoever they are) will simply stop trying to treat staff with disrespect and seek to implement their plans.
Over the course of this dispute the union’s efforts with tremendous support from our members has contributed to the following:
- No compulsory redundancies (notwithstanding the shambolic way in which the employer has conducted its staff reduction policy which has caused massive divisions between employees, many of whom have been denied their reasonable expectations over Enhanced Voluntary Redundancy - EVR)
- A reduction in the overall staff cuts that were first planned, clearly proving our point that these were not properly thought through as illustrated by the subsequent and often desperate attempts to recruit staff.
- Notice to NOMS (now HMPPS) Contract Managers that a thorough review should be undertaken of certain operational practices such as those which have recently caused the employer to hastily issue case management guidance to staff (this has yet to be agreed with the unions)
- Considerable and recent media interest in the Aurelius/Working Links operation (Channel 4, BBC TV and Radio Wales and BBC South West TV) which has featured the unions concerns over workloads, staff morale and public safety. Here we have been able (with the courageous support of members and former members) to illustrate our belief that the Operational Model is costing our members jobs, diminishing the future capacity of the three CRC's to provide even a basic service to clients and, until we see cast iron evidence to the contrary, represents a risk to public safety.
- Interest from an increasing number of MP’s and the Welsh Assembly into what has been going on since Aurelius/Working Links took on the CRC contracts
- The inclusion of the difficulties that members are encountering and our lack of confidence in the Operational Model being brought to the attention of Government Ministers and the Justice Select Committee whose members are especially interested about our concerns but, as importantly, our positive suggestions to improve the operational situation which sadly the employers chose not to join us in common cause.
- The opportunity for the unions to brief HM inspectorate of Probation of our concerns prior to further inspection work
- Specific advice being sought from the unions lawyers which we intend to issue for members individual protection very shortly. This follows on from the unions lawyer’s advising the employer of their legal responsibilities to which we await a response
- Input into the current and very crucial Probation Service Review that is at the final stages prior to reporting directly to Ministers where we have been able to illustrate the problems that our members have and are still facing
- Many members following our advice to stand firm and not accept variation to their contracts unless and until the unions have had the requisite opportunity for consultation and negotiation as set out in the National Staff Protections Agreement which we maintain forms part of individual contracts of employment.
We have made our views very clear over many months as to why this dispute has arisen, but it’s worth remembering that we requested the employers to pause the processing of the applications that staff had made to leave under the inferior voluntary severance scheme instead of the EVR arrangements that were previously awarded to other staff, so that we could work jointly to establish adequate resourcing and deployment of people to provide a decent service to clients and the public. This was about taking up a principled position to defend jobs and seeking to secure a fair level of compensation for people who had decided to leave their employment.
That's the role of a trade union, and so is exposing the fact that the Voluntary Severance Scheme that was offered by Working Links/Aurelius was a blatant action which denuded some of their workforce from their just entitlements. At the same time we urged the employers to invoke the existing NNC agreed redundancy policies as far back as last year.
We stand ready to take part in meaningful dialogue and will be urging the employer to do the same.
Join a trade union now!
We will seek to issue further updates as soon as there is something to report, but the above commentary makes it very clear that it is more important than ever that staff across the three CRC's belong to a trade union. The dispute is not over and now is an ideal time to see another increase in union membership to help us speak from a position of strength.
(Note - the letter referred to will follow in a subsequent post - Ed)