Saturday, 31 March 2018

Napo at Work in the South West 12

Thanks go to the reader for forwarding the following. As an aside, I think it's worth noting that information has pretty much dried up from other CRCs and the NPS. This could be for a number of reasons including disinterest, fear or contentment with working conditions having broken out everywhere. Whatever, I'm sure probation employers of all descriptions must sleep much easier at night as a result.

Branch Report March 2018

Dear Members,

A quarter way into the new year and the impasse with Aurelius, the profit interest group, and their Working Links way continues. Napo General Secretary Ian Lawrence has maintained regional branch connections involved in the collective dispute. Ian has travelled to branches across the territories hearing the full range of deepening underlying faults of the Working Links way. Unpaid work staff being particularly badly affected as resources are cut further by the expectation of new roles and workload. Job contracts for sessional staff being offered with absolutely flat rate pay just above statutory minimum wage for skilled workers.

Across Wales BGSW and DDC Ian has been holding direct talks with all members, taking soundings for a commitment from members in delivering all forms of collective actions. This means as a start a formal indicative ballot. I am informed that meetings have gone well in Wales and our solidarity continues.

Common across the whole Working Links territories as Unpaid Work services continue to stagger from one crisis to another. There are some incredible reports coming in that we will be taking forwards to parliamentary questions. Our own DDC list of issues is growing and the concerns of unavailable workplaces stand downs with violent potentials contribute to the growing burdens on staff.

Frustrating the delivery of regular services add to staff burdens as cash stripped resources continue to decline our functions. All the Working links fluffy talk and internet waffle is just not a real description as we hear what is actually happening on the frontline.

The recent PR stint of Working Links on job roles have all come to nothing as staff are continually being changed and redirected to post and new duties. Any objections are met with incredibly high handed and wrongful threats of disciplinary action. Napo is working our way through these issues. Members recognise it is an indication of the internal decay brought in by Working Links.

Recruitment practices are non-existent as appropriate policy appears abandoned. We have seen appointments undertaken and low starting deals from Working Links. There is a claim on some roles having been job evaluated properly but this is also a non agreed process and is a trap to offer staff even less. The catalogue of grievances of all kinds just mounts up. It has never been so bad NEVER! In my Trade Union career. Working Links have no intention of adopting our contractual terms and conditions required of them.

The continued failings of the Working Links way in the undisclosed under resourced model, based on profit over service delivery, has become painfully obvious to all staff. The miscalculated model vindicates the Trade Unions early position of dispute and the rejection of it. Working Links continued secrecy of the model refusing to publish claiming it was being adjusted, was never disclosed.

The legitimacy of the dispute is unquestionably valid, while Working Links won’t accept the issues. Unless of course it is driving staff harder for those targets for money and profits. Further and disastrous news is that of Oasys now having to be done on all cases. The workload weightings is a non–starter as the management do not have any genuine intentions to deliver a proper workloads agreement. Nothing under the required health and safety process either. We make assumptions, why not? Is it because they now have to accept additional workloads of Oasys is simply not achievable with current staffing levels, when factoring in the real time it takes to complete level 3 assessment? Of course there will be less details compared to NPS completions. However, the miscalculations of the timing for the staffing and tasks will become critical. More so when staff continue to feel under attack for workload issues. Full Oasys concerns for forward planning and management’s ability to match resources to workload. Napo wonders what myopic outlook is being held in the Working Links Aurelius way. Compounded by the undisclosed Working Links changing model. Without workload weightings we cannot agree notional figures. Senior management expect staff to deliver, whilst themselves failing to address the issue of the resources needed to achieve this. An unrealistic expectation placed on staff. There can be no surprise that the DDC Branch will remain in dispute while our members face untenable workload pressure.

Napo continue to raise workloads and employee care agreements through the dispute which was met by the senior management in the same way. There is the denial and staff blaming culture of Working Links. They make objection then ignore anything they can or cannot manage properly. Ian Lawrence, Napo General Secretary within the ACAS meetings in October 2016 illustrated clearly the management knew nothing of their Health and Safety legal requirements. This led to the reinstatement of the area Health and Safety committee meetings. Despite this you might think the management would undertake to provide the same amount of time for Oasys completions as the minimum from NPS for the same task.

Relations with the Trade Unions in DDC remains dreadful. Industrial relations is continuing at an all time low and is the worst in the history of the Branch. The situation is entirely due to the Working Links way and worsened by the cash grab obsession of Aurelius, Senior Management’s active avoidance of constructive consultation and zero abilities or indeed freedom to actually negotiate with your Unions. DDC Senior Management has distanced itself from workforce relations and this is developing an increasing remoteness from staff. Positively we see increases in Napo membership in joiners from new appointments. Those members are welcome.

At the same time this leads DDC into adverse publicity and undermines credibility externally and internally. This a worrying issue since there was a January visit to the offices in Plymouth by the Conservative MP Mr Mercer who would most likely not have been able to identify what is wrong with the current practices and failing service design as a result of the split and the profit margins in the Aurelius intentions. The coalition government’s policy that saw Probation given away to incapable small end opportunists and large scale bureaucratic privatised service providers. He was joined by the Tory administration PCC and most likely they will continue their party loyalties and look the other way. The local campaigning continues however. We have seen attention brought in the form of a motion to the Plymouth City council reproduced below.

This council recognises the continuing issues arising out of the privatisation of offender services, including protecting the public from violence, sexual offences and the unpredictable risks from flash point offences.

We have seen the effects of some poorly managed casework that led to important issues being missed because of the systematic failures of procedures and responsibility management.

Working Links is the private company which won the contract to deliver these services in the South West and Western counties as well as Wales. They are using a critically flawed model according to the Government Inspection report in respect of Gloucester which was produced by HMIP.

According to the report, Working Links have failed to meet targets set within the government contracts and within the first year of the probation contract they faced serious financial problems which resulted in their sale to a German based hedge fund company called Aurelius, that was not part of the original bid.

Examples of their failures in delivering an appropriate service are cause for public concern and are of concern to Plymouth City Council due to an adverse effect on the delivery of some Council services. For example, the unpaid work delivery where there is a provision of free labour on community placements, a notable example being the BBC coverage of a naked offender in a church graveyard.

We call upon this council to support a motion of no confidence in Working Links/Aurelius in relation to the delivery of this contract. Further, we call for an urgent meeting of all local MPs with the contract managers and the relevant trade unions.

There should also be a meeting with the senior management of Working Links to establish minimum and full public protections of the safety margins required, with appropriate staffing and other resources.

As the local authority, we want to hear directly from Aurelius regarding their account and understanding of the service. They will be requested to explain their programme with the intention to deliver effective public services in the Aurelius/Working Links areas in Plymouth.

The council agrees to:

1. A motion of no confidence in Working Links / Aurelius to deliver on the CRC contract.

2. Instruct the Chief Executive to invite Aurelius to a meeting of Safer Plymouth to discuss their operations in the Plymouth area.

3. To request an urgent meeting with our MP’s, contract managers and trade unions to ensure the safe and effective delivery of these public services within Plymouth.

4. The information from Safer Plymouth and MPs meetings to be shared with the MPs in the remaining South West and Wales Working Links / Aurelius CRC area if lawful to do so.

Sadly the motion was dogged by party politics, the leading majority Tory council won by 28 to 26. The vote could not have been won on a simple majority. There is the continued self protections of privatisation at any cost to social responsibility. The leader of the opposition vowed to reverse the outcome post May elections. We’ll see! NAPO thank the efforts of Philippa Davey Councillor and Tudor Evans Council opposition Labour leader.

Unmanageable Workloads?

The past three years have raised concerns on workloads and the scandal that the Working Links management will not work to the legacy contractual agreement. We continue to push with Ian Lawrence for a formal indicative action ballot workloads escalation. This remains a failing in the management approach to employee care.

Members will know that the regional Branches dispute with the Working Links Aurelius, is held firmly locked. Issues they will not move forwards on as they refuse to recognise our terms and conditions as a contractual entitlement. We know in fact they will want to attempt to worsen your terms and conditions. Their latest way has been to start tentative inquiries on offering a pay deal. Their strings attached approach is they want to discuss your conditions. Let me reassure all members we won’t be doing the strings attached nonsense to pay talks and we won’t be falling for some locked in deal while the NPS may well get a significant offer after events. However, interim talks are one thing but no strings is the absolute other.

The recent briefings from the Working Links Way heard the absurd and mendacious account that the Trade Unions are holding up a pay deal. Having received several further accounts from members who attended, indeed I heard the same watered down version myself. It was a half-hearted suggestion. Members having attended in Plymouth would also have seen the antipathetic approach from the senior manager to the Trade Unions.

Pay increases whatever the context they claim the Unions will listen to any offer they genuinely want to make in writing anytime. They can choose whatever pay increase they want, there is nothing stopping them. The truth is they do not want to offer anything without trying to bargain your terms and conditions such as hours and annual leave. The status quo is what we have for the moment and your unions are on alert to their games playing and strings. 

While we are making things clearer we did ask why the Working Links Way Aurelius have not and will not place all your NNC terms and conditions with locally agreed policies collective agreements on the available intranet sites for staff to access. It was said they would be asking those higher up. I was staggered a former Chief Officer level could not instantly make the appropriate commitment to restore and publish our terms. There we are then. I do not expect they will respond at all so that issue gets on the dispute list.

There was some exchange with the management on the dispute but despite being invited to return to ACAS it was avoided. They can do that BUT it will not go away! Members seeking policies or terms - NAPO has an archive so we can send them out on request. What is clear Working Links don’t want to honour the terms. If they did they would simply agree and publish the terms and policies.

The increasing workload faced by most staff with no sustainable way to measure or to reflect accurately the time it takes to carry work tasks is central to the dispute and the Napo General Secretary Ian Lawrence previously circulated guidelines in the form of the six assurances being already agreed but which Working links Aurelius have taken but continue to fail to implement the terms properly for staff. These remain integral to employee care issues.

SSW Branch is seeking to bring about real and quantifiable workload reductions and protection in order to support members, ensuring work is appropriately weighted and resourced. Members’ workloads are beyond a safe or sustainable limit. There are no proposals from management to waiver performance or capability pressures either. This illustrates the backward scope of the Working Links Aurelius way.

Branch representatives and the General Secretary have pledged to adopt a more formalised and rigorous approach to protecting members and record any fobbing off tactics we have seen so much of from Working Links. Members have seen lengthy high sickness rates. The Working Links Aurelius way have a responsibility to provide a safe working environment. This means many things but unreasonable workloads are automatically unsafe and it is this that has impacted on so many members’ health. Napo locally will challenge unsafe practice to which members are being exposed. We will seek specified casework numbers for a fair caseload. Where this is not manageable or safe, Napo will advocate work handback situations. Working Links have not agreed any workloads calculator with the Unions so they won’t mind the handing back as a health protection matter.

Training is an issue as many staff speak of being dumped on. Staff have new and significant responsibilities in critical areas of work, previously Probation Officer related tasks. This responsibility is not adequately reflected by the rates of pay for the job. Napo locally will seek recognition for exploited members and pursue proper genuine job evaluations. There has been some incredible practices and attempts to reduce staff rewards. Appropriate recompense for roles should be a matter for national Napo although sadly it appears to me at least the national are preoccupied with majority NPS issues and there has to be a new balance drawn for the CRC members who have little if any influence in the national union directions.

Working Links Aurelius are claiming they want to pay staff more. Here is another avenue on which they owe money to members. The changed jobs should be paid properly. We suspect across the contract territories, the budgets are to be top sliced this year to the tune of 12 million pounds which is profit. That money is going where? To who? Why? It will not be spent in service on staff resources or pay.

Members, be vigilant about what you are told or read. Documents sent out by Working Links make reassurances which are just not being honoured. Employee care for your roles and protections do not exist with Working Links and yet we have members facing a range of issues. Our best opportunity to stand together as a workforce united against unmanageable workloads the forced changing of roles are matters we can continue to protect in solidarity. The working conditions are in decline and the obvious publicity now developing will highlight the failing areas and the worst contract holders. The published league table of performances by areas has illustrated all the CRCs are failing except a few targets in some places but not here. If a table of CRC contracted holders were produced I doubt very much the DDC CRC will get rated well. Just my opinion based on what members are telling us unless you know otherwise or could contribute positive further examples?

The branch thanks and respect our members

The Branch Executive has suggested we take this opportunity to pay tribute to members carrying out their professional tasks, many under intolerable conditions and with little support. Commitment comes from personal integrity and concern for others, the very qualities which enable you to undertake difficult and demanding jobs on behalf of the community. Napo recognises these skills and commitment. Achievements in protecting the public from offending are down to you more often because things are getting done in spite of the Working Links way not because of it and the people needing support are many of whom have had few life chances. Napo will continue to do our best to support you, argue for you, negotiate for you and protect your interests. Despite 9 professional graded PO colleagues finally leaving in the last 9 months we say that makes retention of you more important. Something the Working Links Way do not appear to understand. Nor what they have done to a profession once a great public service. From here they openly suggest employing social workers but without operating a social model of offender engagement. An experiment or desperation no doubt. This will soon show a flawed knee jerk response to the decline and CRC professional crisis.

Napo members and new members joining, we will continue to hold the position and shortly with the General Secretary, Ian Lawrence , start the push back with all forms of industrial actions through the indicative ballots with our sister branches across the South West and Wales.

This week also sees the launch of the General Secretary elections whatever your inclination and we must remain open minded for the process as it gets underway.

We will be reporting on this matter as things develop and seeking the widest branch views and responses for the directions to potential nominations as they might arise for the branch. We will have a clearer picture as we look to the early June date for the Napo SSW branch AGM we’ll keep you posted.

Finally for this report for Easter have a well earned break and bank holiday whatever you are doing.

Dino Peros 
Napo SSW Branch Chair


Readers might be interested in the following advert published in the Guardian last week:- 

Based in South West London, Napo is a small trade union and professional association providing a range of services to almost 6,000 members in the Probation and Family Court sectors. It employs 16 staff and is currently recruiting to the following post.

General Secretary

Salary: £58,912 to £67,097 pa inclusive of London Allowance. This post is currently subject to a job evaluation process.

The post holder is the senior elected employee of Napo and will need to provide strategic leadership across all of the union’s activities. Their role includes acting as the union’s principle national spokesperson and they are expected to lead on professional issues. In addition they will have responsibility for and where appropriate participate in negotiations relating to members’ salaries and conditions of service.

The successful candidate will have a demonstrated track record within the trade union movement and it is desirable that they can demonstrate an understanding of the requirements of Napo’s professional status.

Please note that the successful applicant will be required to take up the post on or around 1st July 2018.

Closing date: 13th April 2018
Interviews: w/c 7th May 2018


  1. I enjoy reading these Branch Reports but wonder if other areas report to their members like this. It would be extremely helpful to have this exposure and accountability of the management everywhere else. Thanks Jim for sharing

  2. Well done to Dino and the rest of the SSW Branch Executive for holding the line on behalf of its Members and continuing to hold WLA to account and be that ever present 'thorn in the flesh. As a lesser mortal I myself (for a number of reasons) bailed out of the disaster that is DDC about 15 months ago.I take my hat off to those who have stuck it out, and continue to question and challenge the employers on their employment practices. I fear as a country we are rapidly heading back to 'master -servant working conditions.

  3. "I'm sure probation employers of all descriptions must sleep much easier at night"

    Sadly your words are 'on the money', Jim. We only have to look at the ease with which the CRC owners breezed through a very comfortable session before the JSC rcently, throwing statements of self-congratulation around like confetti & enjoying the free airtime for their PR machine. I admit to being more than a little frustrated with Bob Neill for letting them get away with that, especially in the light of the damning PAC report that was published not many hours later.

    The Tory Party Machine continues to plough its ruthless, harrowing onslaught against any and all opposition - whether stoking the anti-Corbyn movement using every possible dirty trick known to humankind, exploiting the (as yet unresolved) incident in Salisbury, or simply co-ordinating the frankly compliant mainstream media to do it's bidding. Just this morning we had a R4Today presenter trying to berate a Palestinian spokesperson in Gaza to encourage protesters to go home for their own safety... simply repeating the Hard Right propaganda of the occupying Israeli forces who have shot & killed 14 unarmed protesters; whilst there was barely a sigh at the fact Lord Sugar has posted a truly vile photo-shopped image on a social media.

    I despair!

    But to those probation staff in the South West I send my best wishes & moral support. It doesn't pay the bills & it doesn't stop the bullying - but hopefully the idea that there are people in support of your fight helps a little bit?

    1. Yes, the PAC report was damning on so many levels just like so many other reports about TR.

    2. Agree with you on the biased treatment of Palestinians by the media and the character assassination of Corbyn by the Israeli lobby and their media friends. It was Desmond Tutu who in comparing the plight of blacks under apartheid with that of the Palestinians under Israeli occupation, concluded it's worse for the Palestinians.

    3. Price of Fish ????

    4. 10 10 trhey will need your wishes with Working Links in charge of the train crash reading that report . Great trade unionists article that but a pity Napo is not a real union. Is Jim Brown advocating something in the advertisement of the Post ? Are the articles related in some way.

  4. Attn all probation staff! All hope of redemption is lost. The last possible Tory voice of reason, Rory Stewart MP, completely denies your existence in his Easter newsletter. You might wish to write to him & remind him you're all still there...

    "I have now been made the Prisons Minister and am really focused on getting out and seeing as many prisons as possible and tackling some of the basic challenges. My first priority is to clean up the prisons and reduce the flow of drugs. Decent, safe prisons are vital for protecting prison officers, prisoners and, ultimately, the public. I hope to make serious progress in the next twelve months and be judged on my ability to do this."

    1. Don't be daft no Probation staff want or need redemption. What we are all waiting for is a Labour Gov sort out all these crooked robbing thieving Tories who have ruined this country while they grow the fat bank accounts for their long retirements.

  5. General Secretary

    Salary: £58,912 to £67,097 pa inclusive of London Allowance. This post is currently subject to a job evaluation process.

    What a salary I assume this is for the post holders current benefit and additional thousands in pensions. After an evaluation how much more will Napo have to fork out for a shop display dummy when we never saw one pay increase from Job process in NPS as it was all that could be achieved. What is going on does anyone really know.

  6. No new information from my part of the NPS we just constantly despair about the state we are insince TR it just a rubbish organisation which offers little service to the public Unfortunately there's no way out unless you just resign but not many people have that luxury

  7. What have Napo achieved while being in dispute?? As far as I am aware the middle has been implemented and all the changes embedded while Napo stand on the sideline saying we are in dispute!!!

    1. What just are you aware of? The Union in the SW are all in dispute and the fact they are just shows what they can do by their efforts and what a real pity that the rest of the NAPO Unison Memberships seem to have fallen off the focus.