Thanks for the questions via the blog. Please see my responses below;
1: I stood in last year’s General election for the variety of reasons not purely due to having political aspirations but to actually try and offer something in terms of voicing the issues and concerns for the many supporters I have accumulated from the POA era and also locally fighting for issues within the local constituency, however if I was successful I would be committing to the full 5 year term. Whilst I don’t think you can 100% guarantee to sticking the full-term out due to potential unforeseen instances, ill health etc…at 40 years old I still have much of a career ahead of me and I would understand that Napo members would need to know that I would be committed to the job, which I can assure you I would be.
2: I am a team player, but my team would most definitely be the wider membership who is the people I would feel most responsible too. I have never made decisions based purely on my own view of things, in fact I will listen to a variety of public and personal opinion before setting my own message based on what I have heard and recognise for myself. I do however realise many people will be looking to set agendas and influence decision, I think I am pretty good at understanding people and foreseeing potential pitfalls, so I won’t allow myself to be led down a path that would upset, disappoint and lose faith for the wider Napo membership. Whilst you rightly suggest I would need to learn much to fulfil the role of General Secretary, I am a quick learner and if successful I fully intend to spend the early days in the role ensuring that I travel the length and breadth of the country spending time in workplaces with members understanding the issues not only for Probation (NPS & CRCs) but also the court staff and the Probation Board Northern Ireland.
3: Yes I have weaknesses and I definitely enjoy working with a proactive team that are happy to take work on and complete it to a high standard. If I know I’m better served either through shortage of time, or not having the necessary skill set I am happy to delegate; however I do expect all work to always be of a high standard. I do not enjoy turning up for meetings without the facts and figures, I will always check over work to ensure it meets the standard as ultimately the reputation of Napo, members and the profession is at stake if the work or brief given is poor.
4: I want Napo to survive as an independent trade union; small unions are the best for tailored membership representation and I do not like the big business approach of larger unions at times. In fact these larger unions and the inactive TUC seem happy for the managed decline of trade union membership without any effective response. Smaller unions seem to have followed suit dutifully overseeing the managed decline of their own organisation but without the funding to survive for the long-term. This I believe is because they are too scared to take risks without the wider trade union movement protection, however this is short sighted and the larger unions just keep consuming the smaller ones in the process which if you consider this carefully is a very effective way to create a monopoly of trade union membership. The managed decline seems to work on the premise that at some point soon there will be a Labour friendly Government that will help recover union membership and restore the trade union movement to its former glory. Unfortunately this is rather wishful thinking, even if the current Labour leadership retains power and successfully wins at the next election there are still many pale blue Labour MPs within the party that once in Government would then start to push their agendas to the fore once again, creating many obstacles. There would be no ideation of merging Napo with the POA or any other trade union from my perspective and one that I would not be bringing to the table.
In response to other questions posed on the blog;
I do still agree with my comments in the Guardian newspaper and it will be your expertise and knowledge of your profession that Napo should be seeking to achieve and support. I trust that AGM motions past, present and future that will help set the message Napo and the GS role will take forward.
As I’ve said in previous posts, I have my initial views on some of the more specific questions posed and from what I’ve read. However I would be at a disadvantage giving definitive answers to questions without access to the information that has not been issued for wider publication. Also as I have mentioned in answer to question number 2, I like to take time and consider various opinions and absorb all information available to me before shaping my answers to best suit the message for the Napo membership. There will most definitely also be AGM motions on some of these topics which will set Napo policy and therefore I don’t want to fall foul of this before potentially being successful and taking over as your GS, but to keep with the spirit of being open, honest and transparent I will give a response without trying to compromise these potential pitfalls I have spoken about.
1: Napo opposes the privatisation of Probation and therefore understands that some members will want the CRCs to fail and for Probation to be renationalised ASAP, however this is now a very complicated situation which won’t be fixed overnight. Napo has many members in the CRCs and will need to increase this membership in order to drive the narrative on the wider issue of the future of probation. What Napo cannot afford to do is demonise the workers in those private companies and rather should focus on attacking both the business model, factual evidence such as HMIP reports and gain the necessary statistics to support the case for a renationalised Probation Service. Using the press to cultivate public opinion and then ultimately place great pressure on the Secretary of state and other responsible ministers will be the best course of action to achieve the results the Napo membership desire.
2: I have read the PI 03/2013 on VISOR, which was originally used as an acronym for Violent and Sexual Offenders register, but now is the name of the database that is owned by the Home Office for use by the Police and security services. Probation Officers are expected to create and manage VISOR records which contribute to cases of MAPPA level 2 & 3 Offenders. It would seem that the introduction of this PI in 2013 was the catalyst for change in clearance levels and gave the authority to prevent qualified individuals from being able to undertake roles that they are qualified to fulfil but not security cleared for. I would obviously like to look into this issue in detail and understand what steps if any have been taken to resolve this issue since the PI has been in existence and mandatory actions since 2013.
3: There are no guarantees when pay rises will be achieved and the Government and employers could continue to watch the decline of the Probation and court Services without any intervention on pay. However if successful in the role of GS and if initial discussions prove fruitless or that we are being fobbed off with the promise of future talks on pay then I would definitely be advocating industrial action. This would need to be a carefully constructed process building up, whilst engaging via the media to the public and also ensuring that our message would be consistent with all members of Napo in the various different employments, i.e. NPS, CRCs and for court staff. Unfortunately everyone will need to understand that you do not see change without fighting for it and giving it all your energy, similarly unity of the membership will be key as will being in for the fight for the long-term and not giving up at the first hurdle. I do genuinely believe that if the narrative is controlled amongst other interested organisations, ministers, Napo activists and the message is sound and fully supported then mounting pressure applied consistently and for a prolonged period will achieve results.
4: Napo member subs generally are quite consistent with other trade unions both domestic and abroad, however as stated in other posts I would be open to reviewing all areas of union business and also using some of my previous accountancy experience and qualifications to look at other potential options, which could include looking at the feasibility of lowering subs to increase membership.
5: As the incumbent GS has been recently speaking at the probation institute and on reading previous blogs that mention the Probation Institute I assume Napo wants it to become the successful ‘centre of excellence’ for professional registration that it was intended to be. However, I note that many members see it as having failed in its objective and therefore just an expensive quarterly magazine. This is an area that I would definitely like to engage more widely with the membership on before giving a view on what Napo should adopt as its future view of the probation institute.
Finally I understand some members believe that replacing the current GS would be an expensive process. I hope that this is not a ploy to try and gain votes almost by financial intimidation. Contract law is quite clear and when you come to the end of a fixed term contract you are not entitled to compensation or redundancy. Compensation would only be paid to employees on a permanent contract as per the rules I have read and seen and I’m sure any of the NEC would be able to confirm this position for members who contact them. The previous pay-out to a former GS was due to early termination of the contract.
I will continue to try and answer questions as they are posed, however please remember I am still working full time in a Prison Establishment without available access to the internet or this blog.