Probation Pay - what’s happening?
Its hardly surprising that we have had a number of enquiries asking about the progress in our attempts to close off what has passed as “negotiations” on 2017/18 pay and where we are in making progress on a new pay structure. We hope to issue something more substantive over the next week but broadly this is the position we have reached.
After a series of talks just before and after the Christmas break, the Probation Unions now await confirmation of whether any additional money is to be found to offer members at their pay max who were not in receipt of the incremental progression (paid out last year) any kind of an award.
The way that senior HMPPS management have handled the 2017/18 pay talks has ranged between insult and farce to say the least, with the unions firstly being told that all of the available 1% for the NPS pay bill had been spent. This we were told was due to the overall MoJ pay bill being exceeded which included the cash for prison staff pay and the funding for the Market Forces Supplements payable across the NPS ‘Red Sites’. It did not help matters that the last set of MoJ accounts were qualified leading us to conclude not unreasonably, that trust and confidence between senior HMPPS leaders and the Treasury is at an all-time low.
We obviously challenged what we were first told and, as you might expect, this resulted in some pretty full and frank exchanges. Farce turned to incredulity when we subsequently learned that the initial position that Spurr and Beacroft had tried to explain was in fact now spectacularly incorrect and that not all of the 1% probation pay bill had been spent after all. I could go on at length, but suffice to say we now await more news as to whether their latest representation to the Treasury on 2017/18 pay will be considered.
Obviously we want to see this happen but any further offer is likely to be small. We are pressing for news daily and will keep members informed as soon as we have news and move to consultation with you as quickly as possible
Longer term pay reform
It is evident from the above that the Treasury seem to have serious “trust” issues with the NPS / HMPPS leadership in light of their miscalculations over 2017/18 pay. The current position is that Michael Spurr has stated publicly in communications to NPS Managers that probation pay reform is a priority and that, if necessary, NPS will fund this urgently out of current budgets, as opposed to asking the Treasury for more money.
This is helpful except that: a) The Treasury still need to give Spurr permission to spend even their own money and need to be convinced it will be enough to solve the problem; and b) the Treasury know that the CRCs will then be back to ask for more money so it will still cost the Treasury.
Our representations suggest that a breakthrough in terms of an offer on pay reform can reasonably be expected, but a negotiating process will then need to take place before Napo and the other unions can make a recommendation to members.
Any breakthrough will put a new slant on the ongoing pay negotiations that are underway in a number of CRCs as well and the CRC owners would do well to keep their eyes on the ball here as we will not be prepared to tolerate a two-tier pay scenario for those members who, through no fault of their own, may be faced being shoved into a pay wasteland. Even more reason to stick with Napo and encourage non-members to join us.
Again, I will ensure that news is issued when it becomes available, and trust me, the frustration felt by Napo members across the NPS and CRCs is very much shared at this end.
Our turn for the hot seat - JSC Hearing 10:45 Tuesday
It has been a frenetic couple of days as we have been trying to bottom out how the unions can get key evidence to the Justice Committee which will directly reflect the experiences of practitioners at the “front face” who are trying to cope with the post-TR difficulties in the NPS and CRCs.
We thought we had found a way to secure a totally closed session which would have given a few of our members an opportunity to simply tell it like it is without fear of their employers clammy hand on their shoulder afterwards. While I am grateful for the Committees best endeavours to assist here, even they cannot extend Parliamentary privilege so I am not prepared to put our members at risk of being identified.
So we now have a public session on Tuesday and you can get it live by going to the Parliament TV. As I write, a number of our members have been contacted and are supplying me with personal anonymised testimonies on a range of activities that I will seek to report on verbally at Tuesday’s session and, if (as is likely) that 45 minutes flies by, I will ensure is copied to all Committee members. Look out for a special report after the JSC Proceedings along with some related media coverage that I am also working on right now.
Solidarity is a great thing
It’s been a privilege to be out on the road again this week meeting Napo NPS and CRC members in Exeter and Cardiff. The feature of these meetings is that we can have adult two way conversations about members’ aspirations and problems and what we are trying to do to assist. I am always pleased to attend Branch and Office meetings diary commitments notwithstanding, as I have no difficulty accounting for my work on your behalf and giving fact not fiction in response to questions. Have a great weekend.