Wednesday, 13 June 2018

General Secretary Election 18

Hi Jim,

Thanks for posting my responses to questions which were written late last night. I guess with people casting their votes as we speak the election will definitely draw out supporters on either side that will contribute and formulate arguments to suit their favoured candidate on this forum and via any potential outlet as is the nature of any election. The art of spin is never lost in such circumstances and I appreciate that there will be people that will vilify me via this forum who are supporters of IL as there will be my supporters that will seek to vilify IL. 

All that I can say is that I would rather voters focus on what they want to see achieved by Napo for the next 5 years and make their own informed choice from the information they have garnered for themselves. I do not take offence to being criticised via this blog and actually quite enjoy it as it certainly helps stimulate debate and in turn assures me that Napo members do care immensely about their future and that they desperately need something positive to cling onto rather than the feeling of continued decline…it seems clear to me that there is a lot of division and that intelligent arguments are being posted for either side of the debate. 

I would say however that written posts do not always give a detailed account of knowledge and experience and writing lengthy blogs to ensure you have covered all avenues can sometimes seem cumbersome in itself unless every casual observer bothers to read the post in great detail. This is why I would have preferred being put to test in front of members at each and every branch face to face, however that has not been possible and I have welcomed the fact that I can converse via this blog with Napo members on some level. 

I similarly do not see this as unprofessional and I have nothing to hide from members or indeed the employers as I firmly believe that we should be upfront about what we are going to do next and what we want to improve the lives of our members. As chair of the POA I had no hesitation in speaking out and stating what would happen next should we not be treated with the respect and dignity we deserved, even under the threat of imprisonment and sequestration of my personal finances; the same will apply if I am GS of Napo and I will be forthright in trying to achieve the desired outcomes. I see no sense in playing any unnecessary political games and I am a pretty straight talker to anyone who knows me.

Perhaps towards the end of my blog last night I should have provided more detail in my final paragraph with regards to the departure of any incumbent GS, but for a couple of reasons I felt a simple explanation would suffice. I had in fact sought clarification of the contractual position of the incumbent GS from a Napo NEC source before submitting that post last night and I was informed that in this instance the contract expires with no form of compensation, redundancy or indeed severance pay. 

Unfortunately as others have posted I do not have sight of this contract and can only rely on the information I have been given as factual in this instance. I have had a vast experience in contractual issues so I would not want readers of this blog to assume that my knowledge in this area is limited, hence why I was able to successfully defend myself against the POA, their appointed solicitor from Thompsons and separate Counsel from Deveraux Chambers at the Certification Officer in March of this year when indeed the POA sought to ban me from future POA National Office positions following the General election last year. 

This was in fact a contractual and rule based argument the Certification Officer responded to in my favour. Similarly I have represented many colleagues pulling apart Grievances procedures, disciplinary hearing procedures and the like by reading the 'small print' contained within policies and employment contracts and I pay great attention to detail when I have access to such information. I’ll repeat that I do not have sight of the actual contract in this case but contract law is clear and if I am informed that there is no allowance contained within this contract for compensation, redundancy or severance then I must accept that as being a true position. 

Personally I think it would be abhorrent to offer such severance pay as some have suggested within previous blogs in any fixed term contract and I would not expect to receive any such pay in similar circumstances, but as I say my information is that this is not the case. I’m sure that members would be able to confirm or deny this position quite simply by requesting an answer from the Napo NEC or via FOI as I have sought to do.

I would think it only fair and right that I expand further on why I fully believe that if successful in this election I should take the time to fully explore each and every issue, concern and complaint of Napo members in each of the representative areas and in full. Firstly I do not see this as a weakness as others have alluded to, actually more of a strength; anyone who believes that they have all the answers before taking a step forward would in my opinion be severely deluded and no matter how much I could potentially be harangued for an answer I will not rush to make a decision or commit to a course of action without all the facts and a detailed flavour of various member opinions. 

Let’s not forget that there is an entirely elected body, your NEC, to determine how best to deliver wishes from members via AGM motions. It should after all be the members of the union with the relevant expertise and the knowledge that set the policy of the union, then it is the role of the elected Officials to spend their time working out how best to achieve those policies set by members. Ultimately the role of the GS is to be the outspoken or intelligent voice of these policies to ensure good media coverage of issues and to build and influence change with employers, MPs and / or Government ministers. Obviously this is only part of the job but in relation to setting policy it should be the members that set the agenda. Imagine if this was the other way around and that the Napo leadership ignored all AGM motions and set the policy as they see fit, if members did not agree with that position then it would not take long before there was an unhealthy relationship between members and leadership and this can only mean one thing the decline of the union and its membership.

To clarify it seems that some who have posted in this blog do not see any alternative candidate as fit for the role unless that individual can hit the ground running with detailed knowledge of all issues concerning Napo members, detailed knowledge of how to operate and run Napo as a successful and healthy union and detailed knowledge and ability to undertake all the roles and responsibilities necessary to run Napo. That is not a realistic instant position for anyone and having not had the opportunity to spend the last few weeks being able to meet with members and being given the opportunity to have complete access to Napo and its sensitive internal information I am having to source all information for myself and from members that have chosen to engage directly with me, should I be successfully elected then I know that this position would quickly change. 

Napo is a union, unions are built from collective voices not just one voice and no-one should expect anyone to be able to achieve all the things that Napo members want without working collaboratively with the NEC, Activists, members and sometimes other interested partners. I would urge members to vote with a realistic acceptance that time is needed for any new GS to establish opinion and take forward policy. Of course the choice is entirely yours if you seek for a change in leadership or to stick with the incumbent and you will vote accordingly.

I’m of course used to offensive posts and personal attacks as it does come with the territory with any public or leadership role, however my experience of being personally denigrated in public is that those that oppose your views and opinions have started to lose objectivity when the debate stoops to personal insults and you will not find me entertaining this level of debate. I’m happy to be proved wrong and I am happy to debate issues in any forum as I will stand by my views and experience of leading a trade Union. 

My record in this area speaks for itself and within the last 5 years from NEC area rep to National Chair I was able to bring about positive changes for members, those who view me of incapable should really consider my record, if it really speaks of someone who is incapable or someone who has a proved track record of negotiating improvements…I think most voters will be interested in the fact that members feel that my leadership at every level has led to their benefit, defence of their rights and employment and improved position as a result of successful negotiation…I have never been complicit in the decline of my members’ terms, conditions, safety or else and will do all I can to ensure that this is a continued theme for Napo members.

Kind Regards

Mike Rolfe


Editors note

I notice that Mike has produced a video addressed to Napo members and it can be found here:-


  1. After 10 years of being neglected, mistreated & packaged up for sale it seems Napo members would rather stick with what they've become accustomed to rather than vote for change.

    When the dodgy contract was signed - silence. No consultation.

    CRCs made swingeing cuts & rode roughshod over members' t&c's, EVR, etc - all we got for our subs was SILENCE, inaction, branch-blaming & abuse directed at staff making choices in an information vacuum.

    When this blog facilitated valid criticisms & challenges - the Napo ostrich buried its collective head & still denies this blog's existence.

    Its time to de-select the Flat Earth Society. Its time to leave the abusive, controlling partner & build a new life for yourselves.

  2. Without hearing from IL this is becoming very one sided. Bottom line for me, IL has not been effective and change is needed. I don’t think MR will be that change and probation is under too much threat from prisons to allow a prison officer to become Napo GS.

    1. This is a very valid point and I'd wish to make the following points:-

      1. Just because one candidate declines to engage they cannot be permitted to stifle debate

      2. There are only two candidates and not voting will in all probability favour the incumbent

      3. In the conspicuous absence of a campaign from the incumbent candidate, what is the likelihood of apathy being reversed?

      4. It might be felt that a Prison Officer is not ideal, but is it not possible that apathy could be reversed?

      5. A union is all about its members. Imagine what could be achieved if apathy was reversed.

      6. I'm more than willing to provide a platform for the views of the incumbent candidate, even by proxy if necessary, but I am not prepared for that candidate or their supporters to stifle legitimate discussion and debate.

    2. Thanks for the responses MR although I had not wanted to get into continued exchange there are a few things worthy of a response. It is important to use terms and language carefully in the role of GS and the term vilify does not help dialogue. If the posters here have abused you or IL perhaps you could have them withdrawn although I have not seen any?

      It is widely accepted many of NAPOs membership would want to meet you first hand and yet this process does not provide facilities in real terms. Largely because the lessons learned cannot be assessed until the election ends. The fundamental point, despite the previous contest for the role similar rules were in place although, presiding chairs have managed to confuse this process. Once the election is decided it is doubtful anyone will move to change the rules.

      I would not presume that readers of this blog do not read postings in detail. Most Probation Officers are generally well read in relation to detail and cases that will have implications. All the supporting staff have detail responsibilities too none would like to think you are dismissing their ability to read understand interpret and consider properly.

      Straight talking is welcome although it has not been a feature of the probation world. Accuracy is important however and your next point

      “Perhaps towards the end of my blog last night I should have provided more detail in my final paragraph with regards to the departure of any incumbent GS, but for a couple of reasons I felt a simple explanation would suffice. “

      Detail would help what you actually achieved was to post hearsay. As a prospective GS it could not be well received to read misguided responses. Clearly you sought to verify such an issue. To speak on matters of partial detail and from a third party NEC representative is just not GS level skill.

      “I had in fact sought clarification of the contractual position of the incumbent GS from a Napo NEC source before submitting that post last night and I was informed that in this instance the contract expires with no form of compensation, redundancy or indeed severance pay”

      Again Mike you have placed your trust and your reputation in an NEC source. The NEC representative will be speaking on matters they have no direct first hand knowledge. It is certainly not appropriate for them to be providing you this sort of information either. Effectively embroiling you into the wrong debate and done you down. However it is a costly venture referring to union issues in the wrong debate. The costs is your reputational risk. The employers enjoy the side show and the ripple outward reflect badly. Inwardly looking centric Vice Chairs have not at any stage criticised or held to account the current GS in his performance. Instead they have supported and maintained the status quo. You need better more able sources for your facts. Your reliance on the information you received is not consistent with your claim of paying “great attention to detail “

      For clarity, we are clear the actual contractual NAPO obligation for the GS position. Is here and not the opinion of the wrong advice you have taken from the NEC rep. Currently section c applies.

    3. 4 Re-election
      a) If you do not wish to stand for re-election your employment will end at
      the completion of the contract (unless an alternative date is agreed
      between yourself and Napo). You will not be entitled to severance
      b) If you wish to stand for re-election but are not nominated under the
      rules your employment will end at the completion of the contact (unless
      an alternative date is agreed between yourself and Napo) and you will
      be entitled to six months severance pay from the date employment
      c) If you stand for re-election but are not elected your employment will
      end at the completion of the contract (unless an alternative date is
      agreed between yourself and Napo) and you will be entitled to two
      years severance pay from the date employment ends.

      “Personally I think it would be abhorrent to offer such severance pay as some have suggested within previous blogs in any fixed term contract and I would not expect to receive any such pay in similar circumstances, but as I say my information is that this is not the case. I’m sure that members would be able to confirm or deny this position quite simply by requesting an answer from the Napo NEC or via FOI as I have sought to do.”

      You should realise an FOI is applicable ONLY to public bodies. Yet again detail is important NAPO is a union NOT a public body. This is basic and you should not be making these errors the information you seek is published above.

      It is clear you have avoided any response on your personal skill sets and union training or qualifications. TUC courses or POA course Diplomas, Employment law ,equalities, OH and safety, contemporary trade unions as a few examples.

      It matters little to most voters who is in charge on a daily basis but what we do need is a GS who is able and appropriately skilled to demonstrate their competence. You have not done that in these exchanges despite reasonable requests and that makes you similar to the avoidance tactics the current GS uses. No issue with that but as you are probably more like for like why would voters see the change worthy of another 225K costs to elect you. That is equation. You need to demonstrate added value.

      “My record in this area speaks for itself and within the last 5 years from NEC area rep to National Chair I was able to bring about positive changes for members”
      The period that you were the POA chair was incredibly short. You pay no regard to the POA full time officers and their parts in any campaign success. Would seriously have voters believe you became chair served less than a full year and was the sole agent for the success you claim?
      Your having us on. Good luck with that.

    4. I guess proof is in the pudding. I've looked and I've looked, cannot see any POA successes in last 10 years except when MR was Chair...'having us on'...maybe not!

  3. 07:40 your post does not scan well.
    Il has not been effective and change is needed.............but you then argue against change on the basis of the contenders previous employment.
    I think IL has blown it by refusing to engage with the membership and from memory, I don’t believe he was ever a P.O.
    The track record of the leadership for the past five years is appalling and whatever our hopes, dreams and wishes, we have a choice of two candidates, the incumbent or the contender.
    We have seen one of them in (in)action and the other is untested but seems to be chomping at the bit.
    I know where I stand, but you pays your money and takes your chances!

    1. IL may never have been a PO, but he was also not employed by the prison, police or any other organisation that is absorbing probation with the MoJ’s blessing.

    2. But he was employed by another union who were apparently not sorry to see him move on.

    3. ... in addition, I was warming to MR until his recent submission and responses.

    4. MR makes the point that it's unrealistic to expect any incoming GS to hit the ground running. I think that is a fair point to make.
      But I'm minded that CRCs are already in discussion with the MoJ about continuing with their contracts, and the end of June has been quoted as when their position will be made clearer.
      Coupled with events at the coroners Court in Manchester yesterday it possible that probation services could be attracting the same level of media attention as prisons did last year in the next month or so.
      Whether its fair or not, any incoming GS may have no option then to hit the ground running.


    5. "events at the coroners Court in Manchester yesterday" - can you elucidate please 'Getafix

    6. It broke in the Manchester Evening News, but this in the Mail gives slightly more info.


    7. Thanks for that - we'd better cover it in a dedicated blog post. It's of concern that the MoJ have changed their mind regarding handing SFO investigations to HMIP.

  4. From todays blog by Ian Lawrence:-

    Its Election Time

    Members will by now have received ballot papers for the election for the General Secretary position. This is not the place for engaging in discussion beyond saying that both candidates are accessible via their preferred social media accounts, and that both candidates will be hoping that Napo members take part in this important ballot.

  5. Members know about IL and I hope many hear about MR. Given the leadership and figurehead role of a general secretary of a union, it is weird that this election may pass under the radar of most members. Here was a golden opportunity to spark some debate between the candidates that may have provoked some member engagement. The incumbent must believe he has nothing to gain by setting out his vision for the next five years and as most incumbents also like to stand by their record of achievements, IL would know he'd be on a hiding to nothing. But the fault here does not lie with the candidates - it lies with the employing authority, the NEC, acting on behalf of the membership who fund the wages. Normally people like to know where their money goes and whether they are getting the best value. As turnout is likely to be low, it would seem members don't mind how their subscriptions are spent. The NEC should be hammering home the importance of voting and making it clear to members that they should not waste their money by not voting. Why does the NEC sit on its hands. Nothing stops the Co-Chairs from being proactive in getting the vote out.

    1. Anon 10:55 Absolutely spot on and why Napo needs a root and branch shake-up.

    2. Yes it does Jim agreed but you have inadvertently protected the incompetent in previous misjudged support for inexperience and immaturity of leadership. Elected leadership is said to lack direction have disabled members in the NEC been collusive with the NPS. GS blaming is only as good as the officers group and what they have accepted on memberships behalf. The problem is not solely on the GS

  6. 12:31: It would help if you could be clearer in making your allegations about who has supposedly been protected by Jim despite their immaturity and incompetence. I read this blog regularly and I cannot understand what you're driving at. What we should all do, I suggest, is to encourage as many members as we can to consider the issues: think about the two candidates, understand that you are being asked to vote because you are part of the collective paymaster. Take the trouble to participate in the ballot. We will never know for certain whether the weakness of Napo ( weakness – lack of industrial muscle is assessed by levels of participation, ie solidarity) , emboldened the MoJ and the private companies to behave disdainfully, but it's a good counter-factual to think that they would not have got away with so much if they had perceived a strong union ready to fight its corner. If members do not participate, at the very least by casting a vote, then Napo's slide towards extinction will become more assured. It's na├»ve to see a union as an 'insurance policy' like the AA in the event of a breakdown. Only a strong union can insure and protect you against unfair treatment and get you better wages – and a union can only be strong if it's members have backbone and collectively care about their destiny.

  7. Just spotted this article. It may help to inform debate on GS election.


    1. As the ballot for general secretary of probation and family court union Napo gets underway, members will recognise that change is needed at the top to restore confidence and lead the fightback.

      Taking up the challenge is Mike Rolfe, former chair of the POA, the prison, correctional and secure psychiatric workers' union.

      Mike made headlines during the 2016 prisons crisis by risking imprisonment himself by threatening strike action in defence of his members whose safety was at risk. His stand helped secure a reversal of staff cuts and a pay deal that broke the Tory government's pay cap.

      Probation and family court workers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have suffered four years of crippling workloads, staff shortages and deteriorating conditions.

      The chaotic part-privatisation of probation services has taken what was once a highly motivated profession and transformed it into a demoralised and de-skilled workforce, spread across 24 separate companies.

      Our union, Napo, has survived. But it is struggling to make a significant difference to the working lives of members who have had pay frozen for nine years, and are now expected to pay more and work longer for pensions that are worth less.

      Mike is a Corbyn supporter and stood for Labour in last year's general election. He has previously stood for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC). His election would undoubtedly give confidence to activists who have been battered relentlessly as they struggle to represent members with dwindling resources.

      Mike promises to defend the primary role of the branch as the democratic lifeblood of the union against an increasingly corporate model of organisation. In five years, the incumbent, Ian Lawrence, has been unable to stop a decline in membership, and it is time for him to step aside.

      Ballot papers must be returned by Thursday 28 June.

  8. i'm cancelling NAPO subs this month. waste of time, no internal emails from branch officer about internal going ons, a recent branch meeting after work was also a waste of time due to guest speakers taking up the bulk of time with....yep General Secretary stuff! Working NPS/CRC case carriers do not care about this - it makes not one jot of difference to us and now this blog has been infested with the topic for days on end. No, I don't need to give NAPO £20 per month I'll keep it myself.

    1. But the clue to what a trades union is and can do is in the word union.

      That Napo is in a terrible state is due in part to my actions and in-actions along with those of every other member.

      Were I still in employment I would still need the legal protections that trades union membership continues to provide to workers in the United Kingdom otherwise I would need to rely on my own ability to negotiate in all occupational matters and of the wider judiciary to protect me in conflict

      However bad is a particular trade union, giving up membership involves giving up protections which in my case ultimately my wife also benefited from.

  9. I see what all this is about now. Should we hand over control of our union to the Socialist Workers Party? Perhaps the candidate has not been truly honest with us.

  10. Do we need a politically biased Union or an interest group come lobby for the concept of Probation? Terms and conditions represent the relative importance of the profession in the minds of Parliament and the public. I still think the case for Probation is not being made. Granted getting media interest in the concept at a time of Trump and Brexit must be difficult. Having said that, the case for Probation is compelling. A PR campaign is required. Can NAPO deliver on this? I don't think they can unless they choose strategic alliances to this end. The choice for NAPO GS has been disappointing in this respect. We need vision and some vim. Not sure either candidate has communicated on this level. Both IL and MR have spouted there vim credentials. Some vision please!

    1. Interesting comment - I was in a Twitter dispute with someone proclaiming the benefits to the concept of probation of taking part in the Probation Institute's July conference.

      Is that what is needed?

      I argued that maybe we needed the PI but back in 1992 when Napo gave up campaigning to preserve the original concept of the English & Welsh probation system which was lost when the status of the probation order was changed with the implementation of the CJA 1991 and probation officers moved further away from being officers of the court?

  11. 19:51 - Check under your bed tonight for Reds. Quite pathetic to be knee-jerk about socialism. This is about democratic socialism, not Bolshevism. Where has the right-wing leadership of Napo got us in recent years?

    1. Well said. Corbyn may preserve trade unionism - I fear that leaning much more towards Mrs May's small statist supporters will weaken it even further.

      What was it Thatcher said about Tony Blair being her most important legacy - or how were folk deceived?