Monday, 3 July 2017

Napo At Work in the South West 8

Here we have the annual report from the Chair of Napo South-South West Branch and as usual, my thanks go to the member for sharing it. It's a long read, but I think important to publish in full, both for the record and to highlight just what a fight the tenacious local officials have on their hands in that neck of the woods.

Dear Napo members,

Apologies it has been a while since I have been able to concentrate the number of competing issues and compile a relatively light touch report on the last 5 months. Also the branch AGM report. My apologies for the break in local reports but as we are now looking forwards to the NAPO SSW Branch AGM on the 30th of June at Honiton Beehive centre we have much to share and get your directions on for the AGM. We have been fortunate to have the General Secretary join us and field a speech and some Q and A. Accompanying Ian Lawrence GS, although not confirmed, maybe Tania Basset who will be taking up a link official role to the Working Links contract areas.

Since the last briefing note to you in January we have now taken part in the National Joint Secretaries dispute meeting that included a contract manager. That meeting took place on the 13th February. There was an incredible delay for the recommendations that have not taken us any further. Not because the trade union have not tried, it is more because the Working Links Way is to attempt to rewrite past events and dictate the process of going forwards whilst never agreeing or accepting the duties upon them and their responsibilities to your terms and conditions. We get a lot of “we Believe” statements but they claim to believe anything when it suits.

The Joint secretaries and contract manager Middle of February
While Napo has the led the greater share to deliver some of the very obviously painful truths which were well evidenced and we provided a two inch thick bundle of A4 documents that were submitted, the contract manager did not really appear to take our concerns seriously and did not look to want to read the documentary evidence. In one way it became obvious the onslaught of the facts, was too hard for her to hear. That was then failing in her stated brief to listen to the points independently. Having been corrected for this by our rep Denice James it became obvious to us that nothing is going to change from the contract manager’s position. (Well why would they actually volunteer to do anything?) Hold Working Links to account, might entail some real checking and some difficult decisions that would interfere with the cosy status quo. 

We accepted the inclusion of the Working Links representatives into hearing our presentations. Some mixed understandings of views and some foot stamping meant it would cancel if we did not agree to meet. Rules on the hoof as usual. The Working Links authority limited as it is was not comfortable. This was an awful sight having to listen whilst they maintained a composure only breaking out once in challenge on a point denial of DDC ownership but nothing that impacted on our view. By the long drawn out ending, WL received a private pep talk from the Contract Manager. Nothing objective in that then! We didn’t get one obviously, and we were very disappointed.

Six weeks on, the Contract Manager finally inks the drafted document prepared for her with outcomes of the Joint Secretaries hearing. It makes you wonder just how deep and profound their reasoning to sort out this employer’s failures and sharp practices is going to be. This has been played out by the numbers of so many staff leaving. The Working Links Way and unwillingness to work with the staff representatives, despite their rhetoric and rewriting of events in letters claiming they believe this and that anything else but the real facts. I admire them in some ways, an ability to manage a total blank on the truth or the realities facing our members. Ignoring the unions is one thing (deliberately failing to reply to correspondences until their Aurelius masters direct them to, is another) but the exodus of staff who have all voted with their feet and taken any deal to get out! The skills and knowledge drain that we have witnessed from the professional grades leaves too many behind without enough professional support and the risks are too much of a burden to carry and Napo denounce the Working Links claims it is a safe way to work. We have enough stark facts to indicate the incredible decline and the sub standards level of the employer’s negative attitude to staff. All made clear to the Joint Secretaries.

The Joint Secretaries determination took 6 weeks to arrive, just a few pages that is a document of committee than a single person with full authority. What is clear to us on the joint unions sides is, having presented some well-founded issues to the Joint Secretaries it was largely likely a waste of time, because they could not make any binding decisions or produce guidance to ensure the errant Working links CRC is either held to account, or corrected because they effectively abandoned policies and employment terms. Operating the poorest employment practices on the lead of what we understand is HR, could not be arrested by the contract managers and at it appeared to me at least they never really wanted to.

The joint secretaries provide a green light to all the failures which will continue and the problems grow as they surface. This company WL is not and does not appear to be able to grasp what it needs to do in, bringing staff with them. If there is any real chance of a better future it won’t be under the current practices of Working Links.

Variations to contracts
Many staff have been reporting their concerns over the selections and recruitment practices of the new Working Links Way. Closing post without appropriate process, staff feel threatened, they have to apply for roles or lose their current jobs. Napo has issued information and how to approach the situations members have been faced with. The crux of this stems from Working Links expectation that all staff remaining will just adopt the new roles on offer by a selective interview. This is not going to their plan as the brave membership have determination not to just give up their terms or roles without ensuring the Working links follow appropriate and recognised procedure and the collective agreements they are obliged. 

Of course we know the contracts managers won’t assist any staff process so we have to reject the proposed variation contained in the management document called the vision? I think that document failed on a number of fronts. It was not inspiring, had unrealistic expectation of a demoralised staff group who feel trapped by this employer as they were denied opportunities to exit with their entitlements and yet are then expected to drift gently into longer working hours a proposal that includes weekends and not a mention of the rewards agenda. With that came the notion of job evaluation exercise and lower grades or rates of pay for existing staff and they wonder why we are continually concerned at their failings. In this deliberate agenda to continue to drive ever increasing profits. We will check the financial return at Companies’ House as we see the balance sheet lopsided in favour of Working Links. That comes at your expense and wellbeing, workloads, and lost pay as they look to top slice your grades and pensions if they could

Working Links cannot fail to understand or realise, many current staff, our members have been trapped into changing employment as their jobs have been coupled to new directions which none of the affected staff group actually signed up for. Many Napo Members have remained in role and will not vary their jobs description, quite rightly. However, staying in their roles is not acceptance. That staff can be jostled out and forced into accepting new job descriptions or roles, nor are they converts to the Working Links way through such aggressive treatment. Much of this fills Napo members with deep concerns and a much reported nauseous feeling. Napo is inundated with sickness absences over the term and under Working Links management and the most prolific feelings of anger we have ever witnessed over years.

The branch locally and nationally applaud the strength of our members who remain in roles and we will not buckle at the continued attempts by Working Links employment practices to plunder their terms and conditions. Since the mass resignations termed severance, we have lost many staff. Those who had enjoyed single national collective NNC terms. However once those people resigned their posts the job was not redundant. Effectively they resigned on the cheap and handed a double bonus to Working Links so they could go on to recruit for the vacant posts at lower pay. Further cuts in terms to new starters and lowering skill expectations. Differential pension arrangements means the NPS continue to offer superior terms. Indeed where they can, Working links are predatory and prefer to reduce LGPS where they can from existing staff.

Some of those leaving staff were just getting out or it suited, but in this climate of fear and anxiety many reported feeling harassed and bullied out and that it was the least of the worst scenario they would face. Some of the early exits were of course just opportunist. Working links drive to save by offering posts on the cheap free of LGPS. What of long term contracts remains to be seen.

None of much we see has been in the spirit with the Staff transfer agreement Appendix B yet the Working links way is to flout or exploit any situation it can. Predatory and disloyal to any staff, the issues will remain on our list for challenge and equalities resolution for pay and equal terms. Lower terms and less staffing, will produce even more profit money for the Working Links way and the owner Aurelius. They are constantly whining no money yet they escaped this year’s fines for failing targets. Also what they won’t disclose voluntarily is the WAV banding for the area which we have known for some time has been awarded as a cash injection at level four for this year. Amazingly you would believe the budget is cash rich now because so many staff have been axed. Original staffing level pre TR values could and should have been sustained despite all that threatening redundancies that was weaved. Napo rightly wonder where government funding all goes but it definitely is not in offender services staffing or terms and conditions. The massive failures on closing us out of traditional buildings and shared offices with our NPS colleagues only adds to the break in relations. Of course Working Links will be making a profit out of that activity but as they won’t share the figures we cannot verify anything.

So NAPO remain in the dark about where all the funding has gone and continues to be ghosted away however if or when we get back to JNCCs we will be asking some detailed questions on the real figures again. Napo won’t be expecting any genuine answers though given our experience to date. Napo went on record last year suspecting the redirection of corporate service budget went to Working Links other deployments in offices in the north. We have still not forgotten that we need to make some formal inquiries as to what rewards are being paid within the senior management teams across counties and CRCs. Exactly how much real term profits are being siphoned off to the new board and the Aurelius parent company? Napo would like to know to make some assessments as we are sure so would we all.

Staying with the loss and rewards issue it has been made clear by NAPO we are engaged and dealing with our harder line staffing group. What is meant by this term is those who have stayed to stand up for their entitlements and are prepared to fight for their terms and conditions. Brave people who have courage and every right intention to ensure a proper battle for agreement is reached on their terms, protections and rights. None of this group have any fear and we are proud of the NAPO members engaged in driving this battle on against the Working Links Way and their inflicted greed that forced this ongoing and strong dispute.

NAPO welcomes constructive views and open media dialogue is not the place to respond or discuss tactical branch matters, so please contact your branch officials.

NAPO continue to provide regular county wide meetings in the South-South west area. Napo members have been turning out in great numbers. Especially applause to the battle of the CP structure. The General Secretary has taken part in this matter both in person and by telephone and on one occasion we met jointly with our fellow Unison team. Our members make their comments and situations well known to branch officers and NAPO GS. Ian Lawrence has been a valuable source of support to our membership and takes part in some lively exchanges. We answer to our membership in NAPO branch forum and we take instructions on their behalf. NAPO appreciate reports and comments in support of our members, but we cannot be drawn on strategy like we have seen recently in taunts on some media sites. Despite the helpful distribution of our message which we welcome we have to be tactical. What our plans might be are is not up for wider misinformed wannabee guessers that I hear too often speculating from the comfort of their armchairs, naval gazing, or just the disgruntled with zero investment in the outcome for your terms. Simply, not a matter for public debate.

NAPO produced enough direct and written guidance on what NOT to do throughout the year when staff were considering leaving. The harder line staff have stuck with us and we continue to rally and protect their terms. There have been no redundancies after all and I doubt there ever could or would have been any forced dismissals the Working Links Way is a sham of integrity given our treatment, lack of respect for the role our unions to fulfil, and the continued games playing.

For those who went there is nothing that can be done. We continue to press home whatever it takes. NAPO continue to produce guidance and reports encouraging members to reject the situation on mass and ensure terms are managed under national and local collective agreements. Napo have been successful in the campaign so far in that there were no actual compulsory redundancies. These is no longer an immediate or future threat that could have any real prospect as they have been actively recruiting staff albeit under a recruitment process none of us with history in the trusts would recognise. Napo have indicated this in earlier in reports. Compulsory redundancies will for now remain a Working Links ruse used to scare staff to leave. Sadly many did so in large numbers with no recourse, not able to help as the battles continue, and not able to benefit as we try to ensure the prospects of the future.

The BBC Broadcast

Available to be seen by millions across the country and continues on BBC i player if you missed it. Many of our NAPO members have been vocal and are working in clear defiance. (None of that resistance rubbish which become a source of jokes and which was an inherently weak statement.) That, took NAPO nowhere in 2009 as a Union. The SSW branch has adopted the word defiance and we saw that in the regional media and television programme INSIDE OUT and the Welsh language channel earlier in March. Those Stirling efforts of NAPO staff reporting concerns across the multiple areas of the worsening Working Links control illustrates the deep and embedded nature of some of what is wrong from the inside of the Working Links Way. The over burdens of cases, the pressure to manage the records, and to some extent the questioning of the integrity of the whole organisation, was clear in NAPOs opinion. At no point have we heard from Working Links with a public formal statement. Explaining anything properly? Instead we have to witness the cover up version of the paralysis by the Working Links Way offering a “NO COMMENT” Not a proper qualified blanket of denial. The revelations made in the programme are a shameful indication of how bad things are. We have not seen any statement to offer a difference to the reported position. To those staff taking part NAPO see them as brave and brave is properly applied here. Those staff taking part, we respect their efforts, grateful that many people are prepared, no matter what the risks, in order to tell the truth as it is, about the fears of changing roles inside the Working Links Way

In the March staff briefing, it was claimed they will look to see if the allegations made could be happening or not? One thing is for sure, this branch will continue to work to protect those members and we will continue to encourage proper challenge while supporting our legitimate aims and entitlements. The unions will not be adopting the Working Links way of going “ NO COMMENT “ Especially, when being asked reasonable public interest questions. Well done to Ian Lawrence for arranging the programme and of course more obviously Helen Coley Ex Napo JNCC and into her new well found career as a professional trade unionist for the GMB and to those brave staff taking part whoever they were. NAPO THANK YOU!

Who is playing the game and what game is being played here
In this regard it is becoming increasingly obvious to many that Working links are just a small group of a small company. They have lost ground and credibility with the unions in the way they engage and many staff groups on the front lines suffer the consequence. The MOJ should also have real concerns given the major publicity failures that have highlighted working life under the Working Links Way. Especially whilst they are associated with criminal justices. We have also heard some pathetic calls to encourage staff to scout out small companies who may be in difficulty and that might be a purchase potential for the predatory nature of business and the working links way. Acquisitions to see what could also be owned across in the field? This is really odd, why the leadership would think any sensible member of staff would want to support Working Links go out and see them try and deprive another group of workers of their terms and conditions. Why would anyone want to see another operation have their jobs held to ransom and threatening to sack yet more people in the same phoney way Working links have managed to attack this once great service. In fact it was only last year having won the bid we saw the Working Links Company FAIL themselves. 

The secret buy up from Aurelius saw every senior manager taken by surprise despite their claims it was expected. Working Links failure illustrates the awarding of contracts might have been given to anyone and in our view that has to be questionable. The Company Working Links went to the wall in June 2016 having sacked many of its own staff to claw money. The justification used to threaten Probation jobs claiming employment and justice are in it together. Oh no we are not. The new owner Aurelius purchases Working Links. The failing Working Links Way sold for an undisclosed sum. Speculating a five pounds note, that might be a bit too much. Companies often change for a penny, which may be more likely the real worth. The question of whether the contract managers and government actually checked the real prospects of Working Links is not clear but they were not likely to survive the year but they were awarded a 7 year contract deal? This does not add up. What are Aurelius really about? They now own a company WL who the government hold a contract. Aurelius does not. Yet through Working Links, a Trojan horse, Aurelius are now poised to play another game. They can bid for the lucrative government contracts in prisons and similar through the Working Links status as a provider. A real sprat to catch a mackerel! We suspect as soon as these contracts are not awarded to a further failing company like Working links Aurelius will look to cut its ties and thereafter we hope the keys find their way back to the Government sharpish as this TR disaster continues to sink.

The NPS have fared no better. Our members there, report little to the branch although the fantastic campaign from the VLOs needs applauding earlier this year. Sadly the national NAPO input seemed to have failed the VLO group in protecting their pay and terms at Band four through a claimed distorted Job evaluation exercise also shrouded in secrecy. This saw the harmonisation of terms and conditions across the national service. In relation to the VLOs in some parts it was a downgrading fait accompli. This is wholly wrong in my view. The truth about changing the jobs was in fact a contradiction as many VLOs reported no changes. There are threats on numbers in the VLO role yet ironically the work levels remain the same or increased. The duties are graded at less pay for many, but those who were already on the reduced grade lost all hope and prospect of being rewarded equitably and fairly across the board as many of their neighbouring counties and colleagues had been higher paid for many years. This basic and inherent unfairness contradicts the purpose of the transfer protections of the national agreement on staff transfers, yet, for whatever reasons the acceptance of the civil service terms and conditions seemed to make the protections worthless? Really? I do not agree and would like to have seen a more robust and aggressive protection and upwards pay harmonisation campaign in place. Sadly National NAPO never made the same links. 

What there should have been was the insistence to the civil service pensions scheme to improve our member’s lot too and the NPS would most likely have backed away from that debate. In any case we have an unsatisfactory situation. The NPS, unable to manage the roll out of pay reductions equitably properly or fairly across the board. Yet for what would have been a small additional pay rewards structure upwards under the harmonisation agreement that had been reneged on could have harmonised upwards as required by the transfer agreement. Something also apparently missed by national Napo. NPS could have harnessed goodwill and support of all those lower paid banded staff building moral and galvanising their staff identity. What a real shame senior management yet again continue to snatch terms from the hard working and pressed staff. I was as many colleagues in NAPO SSW disappointed to hear of the scurrilous views on some social media. Decrying the rates of members pay in any role to something lower is not fair. Our position as Union officers is simple, we engage on increasing every members terms pay and conditions wherever possible and to those ends remind members of all grades we are should seek to support our colleagues to the higher pay bands at all times. By moving all our members upwards we can argue increases across all the structures.

We have input from our Branch Vice chair on the NPS JCC for more information of the year within NPS.

In review Chairs report
Workloads and the continued input to branch from our members is welcomed and this year is an election year so we have all the technical of voting and selecting our strong branch executive. 2017 has seen at least 2 courses fully attended by NAPO activists to develop their skills in defending themselves and others having qualified in the TUC reps stage 1 courses. We say a big thank you to them for their commitment to joining the branch exec as they put themselves forwards. Welcome! We also recognise and thanks go to our supporting colleagues for developing the skills of our members. We thank Unison members too for their continued support as we move on through the dispute with the Working Links Way which is a very unfortunate strapline for the way this company have appeared to behave. 

Of course it’s impossible to thank them for anything. Their latest abuse of our members comes in the form of continued pay oppression. Ian Lawrence General Secretary made an appropriate and sensible comparative claim on the Working links way. This was to ensure all CRC staff received their annual pay increase. Because the NPS who appear to have got their position right paid out the 1% agreed pay rise. The agreements with NOMs was that CRCs would be similar in pay out and timing. Yet as we are all due the increase the Working Links way is to just add unworkable conditions. Pay talks attached to non-related matters specifically the Union recognition arrangements. What a crock! They want to hold up your well-deserved although derisory 1% pay claim in an effort to push the unions around. Another Working links way farce. They still do not seem to recognise the union arrangements remain protected under the transfer agreement. We keep spelling this out. They won’t understand we suspect, holding pay claims up on matters that do not involve the whole staff group is just unfair to those non- members as well as the unions. Miserly? Perhaps they have a way they think they can withhold the pay increase due and make a bigger profit well see. 

Sadly they made no genuine efforts to work through a decent workloads management tool for staff despite their claims. They have still not and will not conduct a staff stress survey claiming they know why so many staff are off and unwell. Well we think we might have a good idea but why not conduct a genuine stress survey to get the truth. Oh is it because the truth is what is being avoided? There has been the re-established health and safety committee which has finally made a comeback although controlled heavily and linked poorly to the wider regions than single CRCs we have made a start. This only came about from the ACAS meeting on the 23 October 2016, things take a long time in the Working links way.

In relation to our local team we thank our officers of the branch many of which I know are going forwards to continue the fight and especially and as always our branch Secretary for all his hard work in one of the most paper driven and difficult organising roles. Our executive members for their input patience and monitoring. Thanks to you all and your continued support. I have no doubt that this coming year will continue to be a hard fought year as we see many changes to come, the national restructure of NEC and branches support from NAPO . The ongoing agendas from the employers and ours listed here in no particular order,

  • SFO data genuine release of figures.
  • Buildings compliance 
  • Supporting staff exit plans in exercise of expressions of interest early retirement’s reinstatement policy and commitment to support exits.
  • Reinstating the strain costs as previously arranged in our service custom and practice.
  • EVR Redundancy policy protections implementation regional agreement harmonised upwards
  • Collective bargaining - Consultation and engagement arrangements
  • Recognition arrangements agreement
  • Trade union facility time
  • Unpaid work assumptions of operation staffing arrangements not in place. Model planned for rates and adjusting working days and duration of operation not agreed.  No accurate description splits grades and role. No proper staff management to their redundant situation
  • Policy to reset appropriate recruitment practices that have not been adhered to since WL took the contract
  • Comply properly with the legal requirements tulrca 145b
  • Staff sickness rates DATA release
  • Innovation Wessex jobs relocations
  • Process of contracts Job descriptions
  • Release the full Working Links operating model
  • Detailed and accurate figures (where and as appropriate) related to staff redundancies/severance early retirements and reinstate strain cost protections
  • Health and safety committee restart and considerations WPEC agreements
  • Terms of reference.
  • Equality impact assessment
  • Transition piloting safe working model 
  • Displaced staffing
  • Stress survey in all regions.
  • Pay increases overdue
  • Job evaluations recognition and process arrangements 
  • Workload weightings 
  • Workload tasks resources allocated under workloads employee care agreements.
  • Capability process and protections.
  • Duty of care to health and safety legislation
  • Terms of reference for Redundancies staff treatment under harmonisation and the Appendix b protection required statement position all sides.
  • Disabilities discrimination issues
  • Role disintegration staff appointed across multiple CRC areas
  • Travel costs relocations staff pay rates and protections?
As you will appreciate the management in the CRC are in no hurry to address any of the list of NAPO ongoing agenda. Despite the odd written or suggested claim they believe as mentioned already. In the next period to the autumn there will no doubt be many surprise yet to come but as long as we have the branch support we will continue to fight for your terms on the list above and more as the situations arise. Our branch continues to represent members across all their employment needs and I have to say as the Chair of the NAPO SSW branch I have been proud to lead our members for the past few years in this role. Proud of our members’ ability to remain in post and resist the management pressures. We are proud of all those members coming forwards to take part in the branch and I am grateful that our memberships continue to challenge and defend our terms and conditions whatever it takes. 

We are a credible and strong branch and we can all be proud of that and we are the well placed to continue our dispute as long as we continue to receive the fantastic support we have had in our well attended branch meetings over the year. Members, we thank you for that and long shall we continue to work together to protect our terms, our Union and continue to try and save and restore what was once a great service. Thanks!

Dino Peros

Napo SSW Branch Chair 2017

If your reading this and not in a union Join Napo now! If you read this before the SSW AGM make sure you attend you have the right to participate with time off.


  1. I was there at this AGM. I have to say it was one of the best I have been to. Well attended, lots of mutual support amongst those of us who remain and are sticking out for our rights. There were emotional moments.....
    Unanimous vote for not selling out. We're so fortunate to have our branch leadership.
    Big debates and we all came to the same conclusion. We won't stand for being treated like this by WL!

  2. I also attended and thank Dino for his hard work and relentless defence of his members terms and conditions. Working links are a shoddy, cheap showcase for everything that is wrong with privatisation. Criminal Justice is bought into disrepute when responsibly for it is handed to the likes of this profit first company. They cannot do the right thing for their staff so have no chance with offenders. The Government should be ashamed and the public need to be afraid of the careless attitudes they continuously display towards us. Well done Dino and his Team for keeping the spotlight on the Working Links bad practice and greediness.

  3. Simple words I know But thank you Dino for your steadfast, resolute and robust support for our Probation family Thoughts and prayers with ALL who work across Working Links Take Care

  4. Some fighting talk at last! You are right Dino, there are some quietly resolute and tough individuals still remaining at working links and they are biding their time to speak out and lift the lid. Please can I urge staff not already in NAPO to join and take an active roll. Nation.AGM is in October and we need a massive turnout and publicity to get ourvoices heard. Please also consider writing to your MP and also writing to your manager to point out the deciciencies in the service and highlight stress levels.

    1. Fighting talk at last where have you been then ? To my knowledge Dino has never stopped defending members and for many years he continues to demonstrate the best leadership. What a pity he is not in the NAPO chairs role things would be very different now in my opinion, instead Napo is going under the waves soon as they start the music and move a few deck chairs.

    2. Some left NAPO to go to UNISON but we're back now. UNISON was a disappointment. They didn't seem to know what was going on or how to deal with it. At least NAPO keep us informed at local level as well as seek out our opinions.