Thursday 30 April 2015

Guest Blog 36

Dispensing With The Baby Boomers

For more than 30 years ‘Baby Boomers’ (those currently aged 51 to 69) have been a driving force at the ballot box. They are more likely than their younger counterparts to have an allegiance to a political part and they regularly turn up to vote. As a result, those canvasing for such votes have been careful not to upset Baby Boomers… that is until now.

In the lead up to the 2015 general election the ‘Millennials’ (aged 18-34) have finally come of age. Making up 23% of the UK population, Millennials are starting to be noticed by political parties who are realising that they need to begin shifting their attention towards the next generation of voters.

It is with this in mind that Baby Boomers working for the public sector who have previously been left alone are now being attacked: firefighters being told to work until they are older whilst at the same time meeting new fitness standards means that many will either leave with a reduced pension or face dismissal from the service

With forces in England and Wales now facing compulsory fitness tests (where in the event of failure formal steps may be taken) and the retirement age for police officers having already increased to 60, it won’t be long before Police Officers find themselves in the same predicament. And it is not just ‘Bobbies on the beat’ who face this test, it is for ‘all ranks, all roles’. 

For all you Millennials out there, imagine your 55 year old mother who has worked hard as a public servant for the last 25 years and who continues to do an important, professional, yet fairly sedentary job within the force, faces the stress and worry of having to achieve a pass in the bleep test in order to hang on in there for the next few years and finally reach retirement. I don’t know about you, but I think it’s a disgrace that our public servants are being treated this way.

So what does this have to do with Probation and Transforming Rehabilitation? An excellent service was split in two (effectively and in some cases literally by names out of a hat). Now those in Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) are facing redundancy, whilst hundreds of new learners are being rushed through their training to make up for staff shortages in the National Probation Service (NPS). 

If the Ministry of Justice were determined not to lose such dedicated and experienced staff they would find a way of moving them over to the NPS. Instead, centuries of knowledge and experience is being wilfully dispensed with to be replaced (IF the learners pass their training and decide to stick around) by new blood.


If the best predictor of future behaviour is indeed the past then the answer is clear: as with the Baby Boomers in the Fire and Police Services, the public sector pensions of the past are deemed by those in power to be too expensive and so the more people who can be dispensed with before achieving a full pension the better. 

What about the impact of this decision on the lives of those public servants who have worked their whole lives to protect the public? We will be told to believe it is their own fault for being part of the ‘selfish generation’ who put less in than they will be taking out. So that’s okay then… is it?

Monday 27 April 2015

Bleak Futures Week 17

Stockton office in Teesside losing six staff to TTG. Two Admin and four practitioners. AFAIK none have been given security clearance so I'm unsure how they are going to work in the Prison(s). Caseloads shared between remaining staff who are already buckling with post TR and ORA cases. I heard one staff member was holding over 70 cases which I feel is quite dangerous (obviously the findings from the Sonnex/Monckton review have been disregarded). Most of her time is spent completing Oasys to make sure targets are hit. Sad times :(

Do we know how many from other offices around the country have lost staff? It's turning into a right dogs wotsits. Given that 80% of the caseloads went to the CRC's, who had 40% of the staff, I'm not sure how much more can be shared out without the whole things becoming a debacle!

CRCs had 40% of the staff? How is that figure arrived at? Surely most staff went to CRCs and NPS is smaller?

It varied. 45/55 in my area, NPS/CRC

One CRC missed its ISP completion target - got 0% simply because they changed the way they gathered the stats and didn't tell practitioners who should've been putting a delius entry 'oasys completed'. This failure potentially could have resulted in fines amounting to thousands of pounds - I think but am not sure that no penalties were enforced this time.

Having experience with the Work Programme, one of the major issues (and it creates the capacity for fraud), was the constant (almost weekly) changing of how data was recorded and presented. It's a nightmare for those working within the primes, but for those further down the food chain it's hell and many subcontractor organisations went to the wall when they failed to be paid by the primes month after month on the basis of submitting uncompliant files to support invoices.

This could be one of the issues with Purple Futures and Addaction at the moment. I hate to say it, but there will be many days where some will feel unfairly reprimanded because you've been pulled over the coals for not doing things in the way the big bosses want it done, but no-one bothered to tell you! And a lot of the time even if someone does bother to tell you there's a change, what you're advised to do doesn't work anyway, and it's all changed again the following month. Those that rely on the primes for payment will find themselves going hungry pretty often I fear.

It's been alluded to, quite often, that failed targets means lost jobs. I think out Chief has been taking tips from DV perps!

Not entirely true! Many of the smaller fish feeding off the primes struggle to produce the 'paper trails' and outcome evidence that are required by the primes to release payment, and are therefore pushed into recruiting more admin staff to deal with the workload. Extra cost to them, but the primes still pay the same agreed amount per outcome.

My experience with the Work Programme in no way makes me an expert on the cut throat world of outsourcing, but I do predict that pretty soon tier 2 and 3 of the 'supply chain' will be heard squealing very loudly (and hopefully very publicly), about the unfair and unworkable demands imposed on them by the primes. Purple Poopers and Madaction are I think only the first of many 'relationship' breakdowns that TR will experience.

It is my understanding that once ISP signed and locked, within 24 hours it automatically uploads on to Delius - no one in my office is recording ISP completed manually onto N-Delius.

Well there must be something going wrong cos ours definitely came back at 0% and there is only one way to sign and lock an OASys - why one Area's automatically uploads to Delius and anothers doesn't is a mystery.

Well we are talking N-Delius my friend and OASys is now worse than it ever was and it was bad enough before. It's a complete load of you know what.

OASys and Delius only talk to one another over night so whilst you might believe you have 10 days to complete the ISP, you only have 9 and so in some areas you have to put in a manual entry that it has been completed just to make sure nothing is missed.

In response, when creating an ISP assessment in Oasys you have to link this to Delius so that when it's locked it sends an update back to Delius. If the OAsys assessment is locked on day 10 the system doesn't update until early hours of the next morning making it look like it's been completed on day 11. Therefore you have to put a manual entry into Delius to replicate the date on 10 to hit targets. We have been doing this in our area and are hitting this target with relative ease.

No-one's told us how to link anything to Delius - the whole CRC has not been doing this so it's not like some of us were doing it and others weren't. We've now been told to just put the delius entry 'oasys completed' on.

We have been told not to make entry manually. Told to do ISPs in 8 days to allow countersigning where required and 24 hrs to upload from OASys to Delius. Every upgrade makes it more flawed, perhaps that is causing issue now.

I think you'll find that this all relates to the DOG'S BREAKFAST THESE AMATEURS HAVE CREATED. I have met a stream of providers over recent weeks and they are all remarkably unimpressive and equally ill-informed. They were warned but knew best. Watch the farce unfold.

I fear when the penalty of not meeting targets for ffs or PbR, it's our jobs, those that are left, which if others go down Sodexo route won't be many. It is a shambles just as we all predicted but still we have Senior and Middle Management trying to tell us it's a wonderful opportunity - clueless.

No surprise in seeing the payoff figures for the so-called senior executives. That's what happens when you keep your mouth shut, or if you keep it wide open with platitudes. And, of course, Napo paid off JL handsomely when a lesser mortal would have faced disciplinary action. It isn't fair, but it's the way ALL the establishments work. And they don't give a ****! And there ain't no God in heaven to put things right. 'Everybody knows that the dice are loaded....The poor get poor, the rich get rich/That's how it goes/Everybody knows...'

Look it was worth every penny to be rid of Russell Bruce....many of you would be astonished as to how he treated staff, the 'new' management all seek to distance themselves from his management style "let's just say things will be done differently" is the phrase being used.

Cheshire have been told that there will be no more Education Training and Employment (ETE) staff in the community. They will either be made redundant or be sent into the Prisons to try and make 'through the gate' services work. When asked what our clients will do who need their assistance in the community, we were told "direct them to the job centre". Great!

I had the misfortune of having to attend the job centre mainly to get my stamp paid. It is run by people who started there at 16 on apprenticeships and have never had to look for work. Some of our Clients wouldn't stand a chance of gaining employment, they need the encouragement and one to one help. Not everyone has the ability to just apply for hundreds of jobs which is what it takes now and hit on the right job instantly. The ETE staff are needed in probation another resource that will be lost.

Bidders chose to ignore voice of frontline probation, preferring to trust in & believe Grayling et al. They're now finding out the truth but refuse to publicly acknowledge this. They'll take out their frustration on frontline staff, e.g. resisting to honour the redundancy agreement. As has been highlighted on this blog many times, it yet again mirrors the abusive behaviours we (as probation staff) have to challenge on a daily basis, i.e. the bullying, irrational & power-base abuse exemplified in DV & sexual offence perpetrators. Not enough peas on your plate? So spend the evening terrorising your partner before beating her to a pulp. Someone has to pay... Pass it on.

We fought and lost....we struck and lost....we challenged bad managerial practice and lost....every TR battle the workforce fought we lost while senior management ensured that their nests were well feathered and yet the sell off went ahead and yet.......The man in the pub tells me that alarm bells are seriously ringing now with the realisation that TTG is a cobbled together disaster in the making. The Secretary of State is now looking forward to his next posting and Messrs Allars and Payne getting ready to carry the can to allow the next government to try and modify the contracts that have been awarded. Could it really be true that it's always darkest before the dawn?

So they're putting job cuts on hold... until when? Until September when they can use compulsory redundancy? Until they have trained tier 2&3 providers to do TTG? Until after the election so we're not causing a fuss? It suits Sodexo/ Nacro's timeline to delay.

I am appalled by the statement. Throughout all of my TU Reps training the message being hammered home was that the ultimate role of the union is to prevent job losses. Therefore, in my opinion phrases like 'unavoidable job losses' should NEVER be uttered by a Trade Union Rep involved in redundancy negotiation processes. It signals collusion in the process and plays right into the employers hands. Someone (later) in this thread poses the question - who do we think we are - the NUM? Well, at this point I wish we were - NAPO presents as just a toothless lion by comparison..

Everyone knows it is the hard working local reps who advise members if they are facing issues including redundancy not the GS or the weak symbolic Joint Chairs or in fact anyone on the top table. People need their union for support and guidance when they are feeling at their most vulnerable so let's recognise and thank the people who do the hard work everyday.

It will be those with union association that will be first through the door. No room for opposition in private enterprise. NAPO need to realise that apart from its membership concerns, it's in a fight for its own existence.

"As you would expect we have fully briefed politicians about these developments, and while it is difficult to secure as much media coverage as we would like during an election campaign that is focused on anything but law and justice, be sure that in the event of a different colour administration being returned, we will be knocking on doors very loudly."

1. Who have you briefed? There are no MPs until Parliament is reassembled. Until then, who gives a fig? 
2. You never secured media coverage when numerous opportunities were handed to you on a plate.
3. I would expect my subs to fund you knocking loudly on those doors REGARDLESS of the colour of administration, not just if there's a change of colour.
4. This is my professional career, 30 years of my life. It's already been diluted into probation-lite, its now being reformulated into a 'just-add-water' version. No depth of flavour, no nuance, no character; just a bland, one-size-fits-all product wrapped in a shiny box. "See ya down MaccyP's, yeah?"
With very few notable exceptions, no MP stood up for us before, when TR could have been stopped. Briefing prospective candidates & getting their lame words of support ain't going to stop Sod-U-Co getting rid of staff.

Isn't there something called employment law which protects employees from being exploited? Where's the legal advice about contracts that have been signed? How can our union on one day talk about staff protection being "enshrined" in the national agreement, then the next day be sharing skinny lattes with Sod-U-Co and releasing statements to the effect that "some losses are unavoidable" ?

What do I think this is? I thought I was paying into a trade union & professional association who were committed to protecting my interests as a professionally qualified Probation Officer, not financing my own professional funeral. I thought I was contributing to the not insubstantial salaries of trade union activists, not apologists for bullies - whether ministerial or global enterprise.

A company can terminate all employees contracts and immediately re-employ them on different terms. If employees don't like the new terms and don't sign they will have deemed to have resigned. The Unions can do nothing about it. Employment law isn't worth the paper it's written on. It happened to Probation Partnership workers. Some had their salary cut by 5k per year.

There may be job losses, but IL emphasises that they be on the EVR terms. There is no green light here for compulsory redundancies. And, on job losses, there have been hundreds over the past four or five years in the form of voluntary redundancies and there has never been a shortage of takers, though there have been many who were disappointed not to get VR. So those who bemoan job losses need a bit of historical perspective in their thinking. A respite is a good thing.

I don't read it as this at all. I read it as no redundancies for now (not even enhanced) then compulsory redundancies in September. Given that most people want to leave if they get enhanced, this is just a way of stringing staff along until compulsory redundancies can be made.

Who are they trying to kid? They don't have 'colleagues' in Sodexo – they have bosses. They don't 'discuss' – they follow orders. It was agreed on Monday between unions and Sodexo to pause. The CEOs are merely ciphers with no volition of their own.

But this is the consequence of the unions getting into bed with Sodexo; Sodexo play them like a mandolin, then issue scripted instructions to local CRC management, effectively regional puppets of the Sodexo imperial commanders. This is why your view of "its okay" is being challenged.

Yes Essex received a similar email today, but making it clear that this had been an agreement between all parties after union talks. Essex hasn't started consultation yet over potential redundancies. It's still very much mushroom management at this stage.

Same email in Cumbria and Lancs CRC - in fact the intial paragraph is exactly the same as above. (Looks like a pre-planned approach) The email also points out that this only applies to Corporate Services staff at the moment as they have started with formal consultations since the 2nd April.

Very similar email in Northumbria also.

Thanks to Chris Grayling, collaborators across all Trusts, Sodexo and the weasels managing the CRC, and what seems to be meltdown by the unions. There will be several more CRC months of misery, ill health, long-term sickness, uncertainty, stressful work environments. - whilst enduring the crowing from an insensitive core of NPS staff with their new cars in the car park, loud conversations about holiday plans & voting Lib Dem "to get the pay increase for public sector workers". Can't fucking wait. Thanks a bunch. The torture never stops.

There are some nauseating NPS staff in our office doing the same thing. They haven't worked for probation for 2 mins. Administration especially rubbing their colleagues noses in it. I don't know how I am still going into work!

I am so so sorry. I am NPS and will do anything I can to see us reunited in the public sector. I have heard an NPS colleague 'crowing' as you put it and it disgusted me, she reported me to management when I protested. BUT the vast majority of my colleagues are not crowing, we know we are not safe and the axe will fall on NPS in the next round of cuts post election. I just wish we could all stand together.

How can courts have so many report writers and yet the quality of them be so poor? Brief outline of offence: stole 5 packs of bacon. No more the time and date of the offence etc. Oasys used to be one of the easiest parts of the job as it mainly contained of transferring info from PSR to oasys but not anymore. Every line I read of an FDR raises questions as they are making statements but not expanding on the reason for said statement. I hate oasys it's a millstone round my neck.

My personal favourite NPS gem: "OASys completed less than 6 months ago so no requirement to undertake rosh or OASys at PSR stage." Lost so deeep in the grass.

The IT is such a massive part of the problem. It's so overly complicated that we can't even do the most basic assessment in less than half a day. How the new contractors can even think about building an interface to bridge two ridiculous systems that won't stand still for five minutes is beyond me.

It's a joke. The CRC chiefs don't even have the balls to write an email in their own words. It's utterly pathetic that these people, most of whom have already lined their own pockets, are still trying to sell us the myth that they are in control! If they had opened their greedy eyes or had any degree of care/loyalty to their staff, they would have stood firm years ago but no, they chose to sell us down the river and that will never change.

The wrong choices Napo members made was not to strike. 20% of my Trusts Napo members took action, the rest bottled it. No-one to blame but themselves.

I am sorry to be so confused but I do not understand anything. If SOD exo have to make voluntary redundancies on enhanced terms for the life of the contract, surely this would obviate a compulsory redundancy situation from arising? Why then in the agreement is there reference to 'no compulsory redundancy in the first 7 months'? Can anyone explain, in simple terms? Thanks in anticipation.

So I see it as this - figures released by MPloy indicate (for example) 30 x PO, 19 x admin, 15 x management posts are to be lost. Phase One = announce & consult with those 'at risk'. Redeployment or other options are considered, figures re-visited then requests are for indications of those wanting to take VR. Phase Two, assuming figures aren't met, compulsories are chosen. If too many volunteer then I guess they have to use selection criteria? How does that sound?

As I understand it, it would not necessarily be the case that the organisation's need to re-organise (reduce staffing levels) would totally be met by those who might want to go. It could be "wrong" grades etc who wanted to go ie people the org wanted to keep so would not grant those applications. Hence you could end up with situation when org argued it needed less staff, had allowed EVR where it deemed it feasible and redeployed those it could and still had view it had to reduce staff complement. In which case it's left with compulsory redundancies ie saying we need so many who fit this criteria and then they assess all staff in that group and determine who scores highest on the agreed "eligible" criteria (eg worst capability or disciplinary or attendance record etc).

So does it have to offer voluntary redundancy before compulsory?

Yes but just because the org says it needs to lose 50 staff that doesn't mean it pays out 50 VRs; (see above) as may be staff who apply may not be deemed suitable.

This is understood. Thanks. However, what I still don't get is why, given EVR lasts the 7 years, SOD exo don't have to just offer this again in the scenario you describe (ie get rid at one point, then want to shed more a few months later). I am clearly no good to them as I have no business brain, and am a wooly thinker!!!

Because businesses (including the old Trusts) typically work to annual budgets. They'll want to streamline sooner rather than later (when Serco took over Unpaid Work in London they began consultations on redundancies within a month of starting) If Sodexo or whomever, say the org needs to lose staff their estimates will be to lose this year rather than next (although they could revise their business plans again next year. This is not new. For example, we had about 3 "revisions" of staffing levels for Unpaid work in Lancs over about 5yrs).

Thinking about this a bit more, I speculate the Sodexo will back track a little in order to seem reasonable. EVR will go to large chunks of CRC senior staff such as ACO grades and their friends in finance, PA's, etc, maybe a few select SPO's that were good at brown-nosing over the years. We all know this is how probation trusts worked and they created policies to enable this. This is how Chiefs and their friends left with tidy nest eggs. Operational staff from PO grade downwards will not get a sniff of EVR and instead be on the compulsory redundancy list, actually they are already on the list and they just don't know it. Some PO's will be offered alternative roles as PSO's. PSO's will face changes in job descriptions to justify pay cuts. Admins will be shown the door. I suspect job titles will change to justify the above.

What this blog shows to me is that partner agencies are confused about the new structures and don't know which AGENCY to call, never mind which officer. The simple truth is that PROBATION' the brand has been compromised and no-one knows or trusts the new structures. Historically, this provider would have been supported through their enquiry by a single agency with a professional and emotional commitment to service delivery and public protection. Now we have confusion, buck passing and poor quality information. A bad idea badly executed.

I have trouble catching my SPO and I work in the same office so as an outsider you were always on a hiding to nothing.

In our area the housing providers would have determined him as not suitable for housing because, with a criminal conviction, he immediately represents a risk of anti-social behaviour. Problem solved before it arises. Next?

Seriously, folks, that is what we have to contend with. Local Authority homeless, housing providers from ALL sectors and police all hold on to this approach. It's a friggin nightmare getting anyone housed, CRC or NPS. Shelter have closed their offices here and baled out, which doesn't help matters.

I'm a CRC officer and if I had received this information, I would have actioned it. No matter which side of the divide created by MoJ we still have a responsibility. As repeated numerous times here, any MAPPA eligible cases should be NPS. I previously stated we have had a number in my area incorrected allocated - but once this has been raised by Officer allocated case, a reallocation has taken place. I oppose TR and everything about it, but if as individuals we do not take responsibility to action RISK then we just add to an already dangerous environment.

The real problem is that profit rules. Whatever situation arises, if there's no pennies to be made from it, then leave it alone and fingers crossed, it'll just go away. As for the MAPPA issue, I think you'll find that quite a few MAPPA 1 cases will have been allocated to CRC on the basis of being medium risk regardless of whether they are subject to MAPPA or not.

There are plenty of violent offenders who are MAPPA Level 1 by virtue of serving a 12 month sentence, don't forget them. The division is very clear - all MAPPA nominals, whatever level, go to NPS. It astounds me that we're nearly 12 months on from the split and this practice still isn't consistent. I'm not saying it makes sense - I have plenty of 'medium risk' cases on my CRC caseload who are one hell of a lot more dodgy than at lot of the MAPPA 1 cases I used to hold - but the dividing line is very clear.

Well I work on reception and this would have been put through to NPS duty no question. It's standard practice to ask an outside agency which part of the business they need to speak to and if they do not know then a quick conversation would have signalled this as being NPS. We have it all the time, in that for some reason they have been given a name, ask for that person who now happens to be in a different side of the the business and they end up going around in circles. The phone systems are also a complete nightmare, for every one call we need to hang onto another 4 go onto the answer machine so it may be that this was just put through unannounced as a specific officer was asked for and it went onto someone's voicemail who wasn't in the office that day which probably includes the SPO on this particular day. I cannot see anyone ignoring this at all.

Let's reflect a bit here. I am left to conclude that business as usual (pre TR) is not being delivered, yet that is the standard by which probation is being judged. Yes everything the guest blogger needed from probation would have been delivered, in the past. Staff are now exhausted and blighted by change. Sadly, the world has moved on and I believe effective communication is the single most crucial failure of the confused probation world I now inhabit.

As a PO in NPS, I am simply unable to process the volume of and means by which I am communicated at. I simply cannot read the daily lengthy and voluminous emails from the Hub. Probation Instructions remain unread until I need them because I cannot afford the time to read them and am now unable to retain the volume of instructions. I no longer know the information exchange protocols and my manager is available to the team approx 20% of the working week and frankly is in the same position. You see, the agencies we deal with have changed and I do not even recognise some of their organisation/business names. So I have decided I will use my professional judgement and if the risk issues justify information being exchanged I will do so.

I often google phone numbers of people leaving messages for me because at least it is a cursory check of sorts. I remain acutely aware that if I am later deemed to have disclosed inappropriately, I will be blamed and possibly disciplined, that is the world of new probation. It is not good enough, I agree with the guest blogger, but it is what has been imposed on us and we are all trying to muddle through. Now, how safe is that?

Alongside all of this, what is being said about the unreasonable and unmanageable demands being placed on staff? Increasing duplication and bureaucracy. Managers and admin organising everything to meet their own needs, changes and more change to right errors in the first change. The list of error and incompetence is almost endless.

IT upgrades and shutdowns with hours notice, none of it actually improving anything, much of it detrimental. Stress and exhaustion rife. Meanwhile the Prison Service is storming on, accorded priority, promised increased income, people with a dangerously limited knowledge of what they are doing and having little if any understanding why they are doing it. Not that Prison didn't need one heck of a shake up. Who knows, perhaps they will get so good at sorting people out whilst they are nice and cozily locked away, that they won't need anyone to see people through 3, 4, 5, 6 and longer years of licence.

Saturday 25 April 2015

Redundancy Debate

Every now and then the blog generates quite a spirited debate between certain individuals. Given the seriousness of the redundancy issue, I thought it worthy of putting these exchanges together and republishing:-

A joint statement isn't a damn Munich Agreement. Those who reject one as a matter of principle should really spell out why, as I don't see the fundamental objection. Surely, all that Napo is seeking to do is uphold the framework agreement, which like it or loathe it, is part of the furniture.

Right lets be blunt, wake up! No union can agree to redundancies on any ground. It may well be a process of employment law but in our industry it has always been an avoidable process as redeployment, retraining and development in many areas has been a way of staff movement and re engagement.

Naively you might. A joint statement saying anything will actually change the what has to all unions a fundamental position OF NO TOLERANCE TO ANY COMPULSORY MEASURE that leads to a dismissal. We are not interested in voluntary terminations as these are generally agreed matters with the individual and the employer. 

Any agreed compulsory process or staff reduction in number will both betray our members jobs and most certainly render any unfair dismissal claims at an ET unlikely to succeed. Now if you don't get the rest of the implication from this, you really don't get it!


"but if some losses are unavoidable" Well there you are! He should be saying we will fight any proposed compulsory job losses! Sold out already and I guess the statement will read it's not a question of preventing staff dismissals, it's just making sure we get the extra pieces of silver in their pockets before the sackings cull begins. Loss of status, career, job and security. What's that all about then? Good luck!

There may be job losses, but Ian Lawrence emphasises that they be on the EVR terms. There is no green light here for compulsory redundancies. And, on job losses, there have been hundreds over the past four or five years in the form of voluntary redundancies and there has never been a shortage of takers, though there have been many who were disappointed not to get VR. So those who bemoan job losses need a bit of historical perspective in their thinking. A respite is a good thing.

I don't read it as this at all. I read it as no redundancies for now (not even enhanced) then compulsory redundancies in September. Given that most people want to leave if they get enhanced, this is just a way of stringing staff along until compulsory redundancies can be made.


Green light for EVR, red light for compulsory redundancies. But we are on amber at the moment. I agree that the Napo leadership should not, under any circumstances, condone compulsory redundancies. But it is important to note that the Management of Change protocol which was agreed between the unions and the former trusts, allowed for compulsory redundancies as a last resort. The line I would take is that post-transfer there is unlikely to be any grounds for justifying compulsory redundancies and I doubt that Sodexo will have compelling arguments to the contrary.

Sodexo wanted to get the process going on compulsory redundancies, but they have pulled back – for now admittedly, and maybe it's only a tactical retreat but it's still a retreat, which is not the Sodexo way. Sodexo continues to defy an employment tribunal which found that they victimised and unfairly dismissed Petrit Mihaj for his RMT trade union activities. No one, I would hope, can be under any illusions about Sodexo's contempt and disregard for trade unionists, because they know the weaker the union the stronger they are. If anyone in the union membership does not fear the intentions of the likes of Sodexo and their ilk, then they are sleepwalking into an abyss they have themselves dug.

It should not be construed from Ian Lawrence's comments that the Napo leadership, when accepting there be be job losses, is implicitly giving the nod to compulsory redundancies, especially as IL goes on to emphasise that any voluntary redundancy must be on EVR terms.

Ultimately it may come down to a battle of wills. And the union leadership should be seeking to ensure that the membership understand what is at stake in the event of Sodexo seeking to force through redundancies. There has been a lack of solidarity in the past on the TR omnishambles, but this time around, if there is a need for industrial action, then hopefully there will be a collective will to fight and I believe a united membership could win. We are in a phoney war at the moment but during this period we must get ready to fight the real one is it comes to pass.

Thank you, you now appear to be getting there. The MOC was meant for small numbers in isolated and duplicated roles coming to difficulty in mergers. Drawing on this as an indicator for legitimising compulsory dismissal makes me wonder who’s side are you really on?

The Sodexo plan is set to maximise a profit from the vacancies. This management role deletion allows them to profit the salaries. Some will fund their machines and increase public risk. These cuts are against hundreds of our workers. The nonsense you make over the Management of Change does not agree any redundancies on a compulsory level are acceptable. That would diminish any members ET claim for unfair dismissal. Now you really need to understand this point!

Nevertheless, you may have thought through the wider implications and I hope members lead properly at the next NEC. They have to ensure the current toothless officers do not allow for any agreed position on compulsory sackings. Having seen the interference from the Chairs and officers at the last AGM whereby members calls for Judicial Review spiralled into a bland forced statement by the General Secretary, one can only wonder?

Napo has to ensure member’s legal protections are maximised. You can see Sodexo claiming the sackings were borne from agreements reached. It is foolish not to realise a joint statement on this subject illustrates a consultation process and at the earliest. Napo officers need to understand they are not playing a game this is people’s lives and careers they may well be affected in role too. They need to toughen up. NEC need to make sure they have the confidence to do the NEC bidding. Sadly previous behaviour may well be a predictor!

I am glad I am getting there...but are you? The MOC was not about dealing with mergers and duplicated roles – it was about dealing with cuts and restructuring within Trusts. It existed long before TR was on the agenda. Pre-TR hundreds had already departed probation via local voluntary redundancies over a four-five period.

To talk about diminishing claims for constructive dismissal is wishful thinking. If the legal consultation process is followed on compulsory redundancies there is no legal remedy – that's employment law as it stands. To borrow from you: 'You really need to understand this point.' There is much myth around constructive dismissal claims. They are the hardest to win and just feeling shafted by your employer counts for nowt in law.

To claim that a joint statement is somehow tantamount to engaging in consultation on redundancies is naïve. And to relate this to the JR débâcle is mixing up your apples and oranges. Where we agree is in opposition to compulsory redundancies. But for this to have any traction, the overwhelming majority of the workforce will have to share this conviction. 

Thank you. Clearly you are not where you could be but we do agree some things. MOC was for merging trusts not far back and never agrees a position on compulsory. It was not written for the mass exodus in numbers planned. I never mentioned constructive dismissals and realise their employers have not made it impossible for staff to do their jobs. We all recognise this is a red herring issue.

Your analogy works in that both apples and oranges are fruit. The point needs to be spelled out! Napo got into full TR talks and were part of the deeper discussions foolishly in many peoples view. The failures at JR was because too much was lost by delay on timings they had already been aware and involved so could hardly get a legal and worthwhile challenge on having been part of it. They hid around any story that avoided the facts and many writers on this blog including yourself made some critical observations.

Repeating the same disastrous recipe of getting involved with Sodexo and issuing joint statements on compulsory dismissal will have the same effect on individual claims at ET when a member of a union has had their terms negotiated. Now why would a union want to make that mistake is what you need to ask? There! The obvious is out, and despite these few exchanges you still don't have the insight for this one Pal.

True, you referred to unfair dismissals. But this route is also blocked if a proper consultation is followed.

On the MOC, it was not just about restructures following mergers as it was used in areas where there were no mergers, but there were restructures in light of the formation of LDUs. The MOC protocol did not envisage high numbers of redundancies, but whether it's one or a hundred it is probably fit for purpose and what you overlook perhaps is that the protocol offers more protections than the statutory redundancy process.

We agree on the framework agreement. I always believed Napo were too quick to negotiate and, yes, it did open the door to compulsory redundancies and Napo. I have already written:

"When negotiating the framework agreement, I wonder if the union side asked the MoJ why they wanted a sunset clause of a mere seven months when the unions foresaw no compulsory redundancies? It seems to me that any reasonable person would think that there was a clear intention to plan for redundancies. There was no sleight of hand by the MoJ – reading their intentions required no clairvoyance. And yet Napo, unable to grasp this nettle, grasped at straws of hoping it would not come to pass – and it has. September is early this year!

Why did Napo sign the framework agreement believing there would be no proposals for compulsory redundancies? Whatever, it was a major misjudgement and you have to wonder if they were up to the job. If this has caught the union leaderships on the hop, they have only their myopic selves to blame. I hope they don't ask us to write to our MP's on this one. They need to build and organise, quickly, for industrial action."
To an extent Napo have painted themselves into a corner on this one and it's anyone's guess what was in the mind of the union negotiators. But that's yesterday's news...

The unions are talking to Sodexo. But, for you, this is all part of history repeating itself that will leave you disappointed. But you don't set out what the unions should do. There was no joint statement of any substance. We now know there has been a halt – that's all. But you are inscrutable on what the unions should do next. If you don't want the unions negotiating, what does your oracle tell you they should do next?

“True, you referred to unfair dismissals. But this route is also blocked if a proper consultation is followed.” Now it is spelled out and you get this point, so will the readers? Nothing is actually blocked but the chances of successful claims and the proportion will be severely limited, making action pointless.

Come on stop arguing the merits of the MOC we understand its value then, it has no real teeth now. Your point “it is probably fit for purpose”. The leadership of Napo for its members I hope would not be as confident or Cavalier to rely on a Protocol. The legal status will be scrutinised by the new employers.

We agree it was not designed for this onslaught in terms of numbers or mass reorganisation. Indeed the work basis has changed with the NPS split. 70% outsourcing or more and you will understand now at least the protocol will be sceptically regarded. Agreed at a time when the current implications were not known, do we need to strain this aspect further?

Your comments on the sunset clause of a mere 7 months have been noted in the blog. It was said ET claims have time limits. 3 months to make claims 6 months under extended circumstances and 7 placed claims completely out of time. The longest they could give it then! I take the cynical view that is why the period was agreed as neither side would have to fund claims nor defend any. Now are you getting there?

In the main I agree with the rest of your critique. The timing through Christmas and the rush to get EVR agreed. This cash bonanza for the few may well have been a carrot to entice and confuse. Hindsight, perhaps, but I was one of the many, who was clear that Napo should not have agreed anything. No member should constantly swallow the line from Napo claiming to be negotiating the difficulties as members expect and you require us to do, accountable to the NEC. The NEC fits your descriptor of myopic if not then blind!

I doubt any industrial action can be brought about now the split has divided the workforce. A united dispute from which aspect? All staff facing redundancy certainly, but this will not have resonance with those happy with their new titles and those who feel safe having assisted the split. From the situation so far, I am as are many, disappointed and does not go anywhere near my feelings. Watching the Probation Service get shredded assisted by the career hungry and naive. Just a hundred years of wisdom tossed!

This blog provides for all to comment anonymously. This makes us all inscrutable and the same applies to you. We might progress our views and understanding more easily in conversation, but we have only this medium to encourage readers to take a position. In relation to an Oracle I do not think we need one to have predicted the mess we have all experienced. Whatever happens next it is up to those in authority to change the way things are being done. I think they will follow what now, sadly, is a very limited route given where we have arrived.

"We intend to fight to ensure that Sodexo complies with the national agreement, and that EVR is the only route that is available for people to exit a CRC on redundancy grounds. Any other approach would leave our members at a disadvantage, and will be seen as unfair and unjust."

The only other approach is compulsory redundancies. Why did the unions agree to wording in the framework agreement that specifically addressed compulsion? It states, in Key Principles, para 5, bullet point 2:

'No compulsory redundancy in either the NPS or CRCs for a period of seven months post share sale.'
I cannot think of any reason for this clause other than one of the parties to the agreement had something in mind. Now the unions want EVR to be the only exit from a CRC on redundancy grounds, in other words they want all redundancies to be voluntary because EVR only applies to voluntary redundancies. Given that this is their position it is weakened somewhat by their earlier agreement to compulsory redundancies, seven months post share sale.

"Subject to any amendments to such terms being negotiated with the relevant employee representatives and in accordance with applicable employment law" This is the next hurdle a variation of contract notice being planned no doubt! The answer to your question is obvious re read all your replies the answer is there!

The real issue is there is no cost to Voluntary Redundancies, whereas legal challenges in relation to Compulsory Redundancies have to be funded by the unions. Napo will be fighting for its financial life and risk ruin if many claims are lodged, and requiring representation. That's why they will 'agree away' so that members will be shafted by not being able to lodge any challenge at an Employment Tribunal. It's basically the same policy as Napo implemented with TR and the sifting/shafting.

On what basis could someone challenge a compulsory redundancy? As long as the employer follows a fair procedure in accordance with employment law – which is not difficult, then I don't see any grounds upon which Napo would be funding a plethora of claims for unfair dismissal. The tribunal system is not clogged up with claims about redundancy and that's because in the UK it's a fairly straightforward matter for employers to do it. Why Napo 'agrees away' is a topic for debate, but it isn't to avoid the costs of funding employment tribunal claims.

Employers fair? Sodexo Fair? Tories Fair? Employment law fair? TR Fair? You're naïve. If things were fair we would not be in the crisis we all face. You write a lot but now your understanding of the situation is worrying. Unfair redundancy claims may well be on the decline because jobs are with the use of Zero hours and shifting weak employment laws. Oh yes, introduced by this government in the last 5 years. How long before the temporary staff get slung out in favour of the same? Zero hours zero rights that's fair?

You must try to understand the difference between 'fair' in law and 'fair' in life.

Thank you for this life education. Your statement of the obvious is amazing. However patronising, this is the end of a reasonable exchange of views. The readers understand you appear to be advocating it is fair for us all to face redundancies so long as a process is in place. Encouraging a position whereby members should expect to be got rid off within the current context as long as EVR paid a dividend. Somehow Napo should not have to spend all its reserves, and take timely adequate actions in challenging and preventing our demise. When I read you again in the future, it will be sceptically.

I really do hope you read me sceptically, as that's a sign of an intelligent mind. However to distinguish between what is fair in law and in life generally is not to state the 'obvious' otherwise why would you rabbit on about what's fair in your earlier post? You missed the point – that is what is obvious. Which seems odd given that you claim to have your finger on the pulse.

The law is narrow and its findings may not seem fair and just – merely an interpretation of existing law. To the enquiring mind the legislation on trade union activities should make this perfectly apparent. I am more than happy to see the end of these unproductive exchanges.

You're having a laugh! You introduced the heady romance of life having a fair process so all should be happy. Take ownership. We all know there are many examples in life and law which are just not fair you re-state the obvious.

Rabbit has been your domain, still going on. At no point do I claim to have a finger on the pulse as you put it. You venture too far. Pettiness can have the last word so please repost as I expect you'll have a overwhelming need to be. Your generalised view of the law in TU matters is narrow. Many will realise the law has many quirks and cases are unique to individuals. Outcomes are often varied and changes case law over time. I am feeling less sceptical about you now and perhaps a bit sorry for your dogmatic naivety. Even a little comical!

You promised to end these exchanges and like a bad penny you have come back with another little rant. However, good to see that you now contextualise the meaning of 'fairness' in the law.

Haha comical as I said! I never promised anything, it is petty. Now I promise to stop here as we have a better insight to you. Mind your ego, it reads fragile.

'We have a better insight' ??? I do hope that was only a syntax error and not symptomatic of having more than one mind!

Guest Blog 35 part 2

Is this the future (part 2)

So what happened?

Thank you for so many interesting comments on my “Is this the future”. My aim was to highlight through a real case my concerns about the split in the Probation Service and the potential for miscommunication and the impact that could have on a number of people in the community. In this case fortunately the alleged offender was remanded in custody and from this housing provider’s point of view, the end of his tenancy with us.

So what lessons have we learnt, well my staff are confused about the difference between the CRC and the NPS. The two staff involved in the case were convinced that the Probation Officer was a CRC Probation Officer. My initial surprise at this was to suggest that only the NPS managed this type of offender. However my attempt to clarify the situation by telephone went like this …

Call to the Probation service

q. Can I speak to X Probation Officer?
a. They are not available

q. Can I speak to their Senior Probation?
a. Yes I put you through

a. Sorry they don’t seem to be answering their phone 

q. Can I have their email address?

a. yes its ………….@crc……….

So naturally I think the CRC section must now be holding a MAPPA 1 case. Not what I understood however, with so much happening, maybe they have changed the rules or regulation, who knows. I sent the email to the address given. 5 days later, we have heard nothing from the SPO in the CRC who I wrote to, to say sorry wrong person, the right person is Z. Nothing from the NPS because the officer is on holiday.

This case was a best case scenario as the tenant was remanded in custody. However the worse case scenario, tenant released from custody without our knowledge, goes back to his flat and the people who attacked his flat are waiting for him, who knows what happens.

In all the enquiries involving critical incident one of the major causes of failure was “failure of communication between different staff and agencies”.

The split between the CRC and the NPS exacerbates this situation. Although some doubt it, I did spent 13 years in the probation service, but this highlights the difficulties in finding out who is doing what. This in my opinion was a relatively straight forward case with a poor service from both the NPS and the CRC. Now imagine it was a very complex case. 

It does not bear thinking about.

Friday 24 April 2015

Latest From Napo 59

The latest blog by Ian Lawrence, Napo General Secretary:-

This farce looks set to run

Our talks with Sodexo on Monday following their announcement of 600 intended job losses and their disingenuous stance on EVR were not exactly convivial, but we were at least able to reach agreement on the need for them to go back to their Executive and think again. We were subsequently expecting another joint statement to indicate that the contractor had agreed to pause their controversial redundancy programme, but this could not be cleared by their high command in time for further discussion, and as I indicated in my last posting this was announced by CRC Chiefs the following day. On the back of Sodexo’s woeful handling of communications, we now have two registered disputes to the NNC Joint Secretaries from South Yorkshire and Northumberland which we will seek to progress at the earliest opportunity.

Further to our meeting with the company, we have today sent another letter to the Company urging them to halt the TUPE exercise that they have embarked upon to relocate staff into their shared services division in Salford. As far as we are concerned this exercise cannot be seen in isolation from the substantive issue about the options that ought to be available to staff if voluntary redundancy becomes an option. Click here for BR 37/2015 with attachment MS letter

Given the support of no less Michael Spurr, we now expect Sodexo to seriously reflect on their plans in the knowledge that they have a moral responsibility to treat people equally. Moreover, we maintain our principled opposition to the cuts and we are especially interested to understand how they seriously believe that they can do a better job delivering management and rehabilitation services with low and medium risk clients than the pre-TR probation service, minus 600 staff. Even more worrying is that the unions were told that the cuts are planned to be implemented before the biometric reporting kiosks are in place sometime into 2016.

That revelation made a few jaws drop at yesterday’s highly charged ’Vote for Justice' rally in Central Hall, where I was grateful to be invited to join an illustrious list of speakers as we debated Graylings shambolic stewardship of the Ministry of Justice and mapped out the sorts of things that we would want to see from a new government.

Two things were universally agreed by all present: that the outsourcing of Probation and the assault on legal aid represent the most cynical and damaging assault on the criminal Justice system in all of its history. The second, is that the performance of the outgoing Secretary of State for Justice has been the most calamitous in the history of the UK.

Supreme irony

I doubt if the architects of TR and those who shoved it through to meet the election timetable will have factored in the possibility of an unholy row between seller and purchaser over the way in which they intend to treat with their staff.

In our detailed report in the week about the action we have taken in response to Sodexo’s proposed job cuts and redundancies (see BR 35/2015) the unions made it plain that we believe that there is something seriously amiss about what Sodexo said in their contract bid and what they actually meant. For example: if they did reveal that they intended to shed 600 staff so soon after the ink had dried, did they actually tell anyone that they never intended to pay EVR? Which leads to at least one other question: did anyone think to ask them?

But for now the focus is on the interpretation of the National Staff Transfer protections that we agreed with Jeremy Wright in late 2014, and the issue of entitlement to EVR if redundancies are absolutely necessary during the lifetime of the CRC contracts. There were a few wry smiles at the lawyers rally when I mentioned the prospect of a legal wrangle between the parties of a type not seen since Dickens (albeit fictional) account of Jarndyce v Jarndyce (Ref: Bleak House).

I gather at least one CRC chief intends to go running to Queens Counsel to see how many brownie points they can score with their new bosses over this issue. I reckon they ought to save the taxpayer some money and await the next instalment in this Kafkaesque farce that someone will probably think about selling tickets to.

Napo - the voice of its members in Probation and Family Courts.

Enjoy the weekend.

Thursday 23 April 2015

Latest From Napo 58

Posted today on Napo website:-

23 April 2015 


This bulletin sets out the joint probation unions’ position on the job cuts announced in the 6 Sodexo owned CRCs, and gives advice to members who may be placed at risk of redundancy. 


Napo, UNISON and GMB are opposed to the 600 job cuts announced by Sodexo in early April to deliver on the proposed operating model for the 6 CRCs. We are also extremely concerned at reports that none of the 6 Sodexo-owned CRCs is planning to honour the terms of the national enhanced voluntary redundancy scheme (EVR), agreed as part of last year’s Staff Transfer and Protections Agreement, if voluntary redundancies are eventually declared. 

We intend to fight to ensure that Sodexo complies with the national agreement, and that EVR is the only route that is available for people to exit a CRC on redundancy grounds. Any other approach would leave our members at a disadvantage, and will be seen as unfair and unjust. 

Any other voluntary severance package, or early retirement scheme, is likely to be inferior to the nationally agreed package, and members should be wary of any offer that undercuts the terms of the national agreement. See advice to members below.

In response to the threat to members’ jobs, public safety concerns over the scale of the job losses and the possibility that the national agreement on EVR may be ignored, the three unions have: 

Written on 17 April to Ursula Brennan, the MOJ Permanent Secretary, to ask her to: 
  • Confirm whether the Sodexo job cuts have been authorised by the Secretary of State as the ‘special shareholder’ in each of the CRCs. The unions doubt whether this has been done. 
  • Instruct Sodexo to halt the timetable for the job cuts in order to allow proper scrutiny of the staffing and public safety issues after Ministers return to the MOJ after the general election 
  • Confirm that each of the Sodexo-owned CRCs must abide by the terms of the contract that the company signed with the MOJ to honour the terms of the national enhanced voluntary redundancy scheme (EVR) if voluntary redundancies eventually take place, and that MOJ will enforce this contractual term if Sodexo refuses to abide by its provisions.
STOP PRESS: Michael Spurr in a letter to the trade unions dated 22 April has helpfully confirmed the following: 
‘We therefore confirm that your understanding (that the EVR terms set out in the National Agreement should apply to any voluntary redundancies offered by Sodexo CRCs to employees employed by a Probation Trust on 31 May 2014 for the lifetime of the Sodexo contracts) accords with the MOJ’s intention and understanding of the relevant terms of the National Agreement and the ARSA [contract between MOJ and Sodexo], subject to any amendments to such terms being negotiated with the relevant employee representatives and in accordance with applicable employment law’ 
• Lodged a national dispute at the National Negotiating Council (NNC) at the meeting on Friday 17 April, over the risk to the national agreement on EVR and asked for the Joint Secretaries of the NNC to also instruct the 6 Sodexo-owned CRCs to halt work on the proposed redundancies pending resolution of the potential dispute over redundancy terms. MOJ representatives at the NNC meeting confirmed that MOJ agreed with the unions that Sodexo must apply the terms of the EVR scheme. 

Met with Sodexo on Monday 20 April to ask the company in the strongest possible terms to: 
  • Reconsider the scale of redundancies, in light of our concerns over staffing pressures and public safety. We are awaiting information from Sodexo on their operating model so the proposals can be properly scrutinised. 
  • Consult fully with trade unions locally over the company’s proposed operating model via the CRCs’ local negotiating machinery 
  • Confirm that, if voluntary redundancies are eventually declared, Sodexo will comply with the NNC enhanced voluntary redundancy agreement 

  • As a result of the meeting, and the trade unions’ request to halt the redundancy process, Sodexo confirmed on 22 April that:
Following discussions with our colleague CRC CEOs earlier today, we have agreed, where these have commenced, to pause our current redundancy consultations. This is pending further clarification, refinement and consideration of staffing numbers and associated budgets during May.’
 • Met to consider our joint union strategy going forward, including the potential for industrial action if we cannot make progress on the above issues via negotiating channels


If you are an employee of one of the 6 Sodexo-owned CRCs, and you find yourself at risk of redundancy as a result of the recently announced job cuts, you are advised: 
  • Not to enter into any individual consultation or agreement with your CRC, or Sodexo, in relation to your job security or redundancy terms, until further advice from your union 
  • To refer any approach from your CRC, or Sodexo, regarding your job security or redundancy terms to your local union representative/branch 
  • To advise your CRC, or Sodexo, that you are not able to respond to any approach regarding job security or redundancy terms until you have received further advice from your trade union and refer your CRC, or Sodexo, to your trade union representative or branch 
It is particularly important that you do not commit to accept any redundancy terms that have not been approved by your trade union, as it is possible that Sodexo plans to offer inferior terms to those set out in the national agreement. If you agree to any such inferior terms you will have put yourself outside of the protection of the national agreement and your union will be unable to assist you to improve your severance deal. More information will be issued as soon as it becomes available.

Guest Blog 35

Is this the future?

We are a regional sized housing charity and I have watched and wondered what the split of to CRC and NPS will mean to us? We house a substantial number of ex-offenders and we have had a first taste of the new service from our local CRC.

One of our housed offenders is a MAPPA 1 case supervised by the CRC. He is on licence to early 2017. He lives in block of flats not far from the city centre. Over the weekend his flat was attacked and his door daubed with abuse. A number of our tenants contacted us concerned about what had been written on the flat door and walls and about their safety. Our maintenance team immediately cleaned the area and repainted the door.

We were informed that he had been arrested by the Police and to the best of our knowledge was being questioned about a serious offence.

What were our concerns? If he is released without charge do we need to move him to a safer location? If we do, when is he likely to be released so we can smoothly ensure that he is safe? We are also conscious about the safety of the other residents in the flats if he was released and went back to the flats. Would other residents be mistaken for him? Would he been vulnerable to attack from other residents? What were the CRC thoughts and views on this as they have him on licence?

On Monday morning we rang his CRC officer to explain our concerns, no one available to take the call. By 5pm no response from anyone and I rang the CRC to speak to the Senior Probation Officer, not available. I got their email address and emailed them highlighting our concerns and have waited for a response, nothing from the Probation Officer or the Senior Probation Officer.

We eventually heard today from the Police that he has now been remanded in custody accused of a serious sexual offence. We have secured his room and informed the other residents of the flats that he will not be returning.

I have still not even had an acknowledgement from the Senior Probation Officer concerning my email nothing but a terrible silence. Brand new future sounds like a nightmare. What if he had been released without charge and returned to his property?

Every child care or probation disaster enquiry always highlights poor communication as the key failure. Not a great start for the CRCs in terms of communications! I don’t blame the PO or SPO as we are already hearing nightmare stories about caseloads and new areas of responsibilities.

However the CRC have to understand a bad call or mistake is not someone losing benefits and it is not something that can be covered up in prison, this is out there in the community. 

If anyone thinks I have unrealistic expectations I did spent thirteen years as a Senior Probation Officer.

Tuesday 21 April 2015

Latest From Napo 57

Latest blog from Ian Lawrence, Napo General Secretary:-

Job cuts paused as Sodexo and MoJ argue the toss over EVR

Yesterdays meeting between Sodexo bosses and the probation unions which was diplomatically described in the joint statement that followed as a 'full and frank' discussion, paved the way for an announcement that will be issued formally tomorrow morning by CRC Chiefs. This confirms our expectation that Sodexo have signalled a pause to the job cuts programme pending further considerations and their upcoming meeting with the MoJ contractor.

We made our position clear this week that the magnitude of the 600 job reductions are nothing short of madness and have posited some awkward questions that will need to be confirmed by someone about whether these plans were part of Sodexo's contract bid. If they were, then why would anyone who gave a jot about service provision and public safety sign them off as acceptable? And if they have been decided upon subsequently, why have the contractors not approached the Secretary of State for dispensation to make them?

Leaving aside the terms of the staff protections and the entitlements to Enhanced Voluntary Redundancy (and the size of the payouts to former Trust Chiefs which attracted some interest from the Sunday Times last weekend), the notion that within the Sodexo contract package area there were 600 pre-TR jobs that were effectively an unnecessary drain on the taxpayer is nothing short of outrageous. We heard much yesterday about the so called 'steady state' (of staffing) that Sodexo are seeking to achieve as information confirms our fears that the ICT platform to link up with N-Delius is not going to be ready until some time next year and that the desperate attempts to create a 'work around' are reckoned by the specialists who know about these things to be unreliable to say the least. Add to the mix the uncertainties around estate provision for creating new service locations and the backtracking we saw yesterday about exactly when biometric kiosks are actually going to be introduced and it all points to the disaster that we have long been predicting.

Given that these were key issues in our pre-TR campaign, one might reasonably expect that Sodexo would have exercised their due diligence a bit more diligently before their clumsy and morale sapping announcements with some quite appalling examples of communications that are either misleading or inaccurate and one which has caused us to register a dispute to the joint Secretary at last weeks NNC meeting.

That Data Room again

Not for the first time (and certainly not the last I am sure) we heard a great deal yesterday about the efficacy and content of the information made available to bidders before the contracts were signed in the pre-election haste that we all know was the real driver for TR.

So the blame game that we predicted has started; and the discussions between Sodexo and other bidders about the terms payable for EVR, and how they are going to bridge the gap between expected service provision and the failure of some of them to sign up the requisite second tier providers as 'Through The Gate' responsibilities loom large on the 1st May' ought to be very interesting.

As you would expect we have fully briefed politicians about these developments, and while it is difficult to secure as much media coverage as we would like during an election campaign that is focused on anything but law and justice, be sure that in the event of a different colour administration being returned, we will be knocking on doors very loudly.

What next?

The announcement by Sodexo certainly does not represent a victory, but we have been able to convince them of the need to signal a welcome respite in advance of the talks referred to above. Napo's position is that we do not believe the proposed job cuts are necessary or safe, but if some losses are unavoidable they must be on the terms agreed within the national agreements and replicated within the service level contracts. It is morally indefensible to offer staff lesser terms for leaving than those that their colleagues received in tranches 1 and 2 of the early departure schemes.

More news as soon as it becomes available.

A Wise Move?

This on the Napo website:-

Joint statement between Sodexo and the Probation Trade Unions

Today Sodexo and the Probation Trade Unions had a full and frank discussion covering a number of key issues including the consultation process around proposed job cuts. Sodexo will consult with their Executive and CRC Chief Executives and it is hoped that a further joint statement can be issued tomorrow.

This on the blog:-

Napo should not be involved in a joint statement regarding redundancies. Just maintain proper opposition. It just shows me that if Napo get involved in influencing a reduction process but still agree to some cuts and (like) staff sifting, they won't be able to object in the future and elsewhere. Napo got involved in the TR consultation which is why they failed to take proper JR process. Getting wrong grounds was a gift to TR - running in challenge too late another gift. The MoJ consultants team knew we could win but were astounded how foolish Napo were, naive and did nothing appropriately at the right time. This news is just the same for Napo. Here they go again, seeking to appear at the table but don't know what do.

Sunday 19 April 2015

Bleak Futures Week 16

Aside from the 'poison pill' clauses in the 10-year contracts which would incur penalties of £3-400m payable to the contractor for cancellation, there is no political will in the Labour Party to end the contracts early.

At a Progress conference in May last year, Lord Wood, a Miliband aide, said "more imagination" was required to improve public services when there was little spare money. He said politicians should not "fight ideological battles" over public sector services and there was a role for private companies.

Probation staff might be interested in how the Prison Service is getting on with their annual pay review. Up to 5% for some staff. I have no objection to rising wages, but it seems we are playing Cinderella....again!

I love the notion that prisoners' property can be confiscated on the governor's say-so, then sold and the proceeds given to Nacro. Maybe the payment formula for Sodexo's bed-fellows isn't that lucrative after all? Oh, hang on, might there be a case for Nacro being charged with receiving stolen goods if the prisoner wins their appeal? Or a conflict of interest, seeing as Nacro is now a private sector provider for the MoJ, who run the prisons yet is being handed the profits from a rather dodgy prison policy?

It is a pity that the prisons cannot use all this energy and effort being spent on obsessive and overweening security and convert it into rehabilitative actions.

The use of a telephone in prison should not have a profit element. It has long been recognised that maintaining family and community ties assists in successful resettlement's. The language of 'privileges' towards what should be seen as necessities and the commonplace accoutrement's of life in the 21st century, really harks back to the 19th century when prisoners were virtually in solitary confinement from each other, when even conversations were forbidden and daily conditions were punitive and vengeful, and the only reading material was the bible.

Am hearing stories regarding the training of TTG staff employed by some of these legendary VCS providers. Originally they were talking about 5 days training but this has apparently been reduced to 1. When the CRC trainers presented them with the list of things the training needed to contain, said providers balked at the depth and detail. They didn't realise how complicated it all was. Oops!!

TTG in our area are training staff going into these positions for 6 full days. Not sure what other areas are training prison TTG staff but to only train staff for a day!!!! Some CRC's are standing up to their new providers and not letting them dictate to us and surprisingly they are actually allowing us to do this. Might not seem much, but the power balance is not all in their favour.

TTG staff in a northern town are being trained to deliver programmes, with schedules already being drawn up for them to work alongside CRC PO & PSO staff.

A woman arrived at the office this week accompanied by a CRC staff member. Apparently (again this is rumour and may not be totally accurate) she was from a US based "professional services firm" (one of the supposed big four) who, among other services, assess enterprise risk. Her company had been commissioned by the CRC, who shall remain nameless, to report back on the workings of the company in the brave new world. It was suggested that at the bidding stage, the Govt had not been fully up front about the complexities of what the CRC's were taking on and this one had bitten off more than it could chew. Now if this is true, I don't know how big business works, but would it have been wise to have employed said professional services firm before making the bid or did the Govt block this?

We've been managing fine but are now beginning to creak under the volume of new cases. Not heard anything from our new owners PF - even their twitterfeed has stalled. Hand the poison chalice back I say!!

It seems that a lot of Sodexo/Nacro staff are holding out for enhanced voluntary redundancy. I just don't know if they are going to get it. Even without it, nobody wants the NPS jobs out there, people have had enough and want out completely.

A lot of Sodexo/Nacro staff ARE wanting out. And with the double-whammy bullshit of (1) being shafted to CRC in the first instance & (2) losing any chance of carrying T&C's across post 1 Feb'15, then why would they want to join NPS?

In our CRC office of 10 POs & 10 PSOs (Fte), 8 POs & 5 PSOs want out. And they are prepared to fight for it. No-one wants to be associated with the crass corporate shite. Those prepared to stay are either (a) financially hamstrung or (b) relatively new to the role, have no sadness about the historical stuff and are okay with simply being employed. Other CRCs must be in similar positions with staff?

Yes. My CRC is similarly full of people who have no confidence in the operating model and are just waiting to see if they can get a package to ease their departure.

It's all gone very, very quiet - lull before the storm? CRC mgmt have gone to ground; promised visits by CRC owners abandoned/postponed; middle managers' doors remain firmly shut; allocations by email only, no discussion.

Cumbria & Lancs have effectively given notice of redundancies with consultations kicking off by end April/start of May. No doubt full email will be available to JB. (Not yet). Level of severance pay not available.

Cumbria & Lancs, like BeNCH, have notified office managers and other corporate service staff of their imminent demise. Some grumbles have drifted down from up in Cumbria, saying that the Sodexo plan is to focus all admin in & around Salford (where they have an expensive fancy-pants IT centre in Media City) & Lancs, leaving Cumbrian staff high & dry. Who fancies commuting from Carlisle to Salford or Preston?

Still no news about how much redundancy payments will be. Rumours in our local boozer are that Sodexo (no other names mentioned as yet) are "Raging" & putting pressure on MoJ staff over the their claim that enhanced payments were NOT on the table for anyone post 1st Feb 2015, i.e. their modern 'clearances' program.

Everything about TR is flawed massively. CRC CEOs are doing their best to minimise political embarrassment to remain in favour with NOMs and damage to operational staff is irrelevant.

The robber barons have fallen out over the spoils. It's the oldest story in the book.

Front line PSOs in Wales CRC being seconded to prison for TTG ready for 1st May. Who will take on their caseload?

I thought CRC Staff wouldn't be working with high risk offenders?

'Dear Colleagues,

Delivery of Resettlement Services.
Earlier this week we wrote to you to explain how Wales Community Rehabilitation are preparing for the delivery of resettlement services for offenders from May 1st 2015. Under the new service, which forms part of our Through The Gate (TTG) plan, all offenders, including those with a prison sentence of 12 months or under, will be provided with support to address their resettlement needs prior to release from custody. To avoid any potential confusion, we would like to point out that Wales CRC will be responsible for providing these resettlement services for all prisoners, not just those at low to medium risk of causing harm.

Yours sincerely,
Liz Rijnenberg
Chief Executive'

It was always the case that CRCs would provide TTG services to all prisoners in the prisons in their areas. This has been in the documents from the start. It doesn't mean that the CRCs will be doing offender supervision tasks for all prisoners, probably just delivering basic workshops on accommodation, employment etc.

Not only in Wales. BeNCH CRC staff was advised that the Sodexo partnership contracted for TTG may not be able to recruit sufficient staff by 1st May to deliver. CRC staff was asked if they had current clearance and/or if they were interested in a temporary secondment for this purpose. A further notice indicated the enquiry was aimed at PSOs; tasks would include completion of the Basic Custody Screening. My understanding is that this would constitute an offender supervisor type role. No further news since.

BCS was initially meant to be conducted by Band 4 officers in the prison but a couple of months in some prisons are missing targets because of staff shortages so guess what? The PSOs they decided they didn't want any more have now been told that they can do the interviews as well!

TTG will consist of referrals to benefits, housing and job centre, nothing more or less. It will, However, be enough for CRC's to eventually claim they are as able of managing high risk as the NPS despite the fact the most experienced and qualifies staff could well be lost to them by then.

Some Wales CRC Staff also have a secondment to TTG. 1 wk training next week then start in the prison on May 1st. Pretty intensive training! I think they may be filling in while the new St Giles staff await prison clearance.

It felt like a breath of fresh air: the unions' threat to ballot for strike action. It's the only language the MoJ and the predators understand. They always prefer to 'consult', but they respect a threat. A threat: a capacity to do something and the means to carry it out. The membership of the unions could tick both these boxes.

It's early days but there is potential here for probation staff nationally to support probation staff in local difficulties. I am thinking here of strike funds, tactical support to colleagues who are fighting on a particular front. The biggest worry for any striker is financial hardship and the more this can be militated the more those affected can focus on fighting their corner. The vanguard supported by national solidarity - and financial support. Because: but for the grace of God go I. Whatever, the threat of a ballot for strike action is a welcome step towards facing up to Sodexo.

I am frustrated by today's joint statement. Unison all of a sudden are waking up and threatening strike action. They did this before and bottled it. NOW is the time for NAPO, UNISON and any other involved UNION to really stand shoulder to should. This time co-ordinate your ballots, co-ordinate your action and deliver together - if UNISON had taken strike action with NAPO before the sell off - I remain convinced this have been a total different situation. UNISON failed its members - don't fail them now.

In response I can only talk for myself at this stage. I am in NPS and would stand and be counted in support of my colleagues in the CRC - we must remain united. I would vote to strike. You are right, the only language these people understand is direct action. As I see it none of us is "sitting pretty" far from it we are ALL in the target range. I went out on strike, lobbied parliament, walked the streets and distributed leaflets to the public in our area on the day of the strikes. It would make me personally feel a whole lot better to get up and do something about this. Be strong colleagues and stand together on this one - otherwise the future will be bleaker than we can imagine.

If this does not include all CRCs we are on a hiding to nothing. While Sodexo are the only ones to have come out and announced these job losses - there is time for other providers to do so. Some areas may not have threatened job cuts but perhaps because staff are being spread so thinly, the overall same public safety concerns exist. What worries me is more and more staff are becoming subservient, and won't fight against what is not just morally wrong but dangerous.

You will only be allowed to strike if it is your CRC as NPS and other CRCS are run by different companies/organisations. You may not agree but that is the law.

Golden share is owned by MOJ and therefore technically still employed by MOJ and only managed by private sector provider. We should have right to strike against the job losses proposed and EVEN IF WE DON'T we should anyway. As NAPO and/or UNISON Members - WE SHOULD STAND TOGETHER.

I will pay financial support if I am not allowed to strike as am NPS I suggest sharing the pain by donating half a days pay to a CRC colleague that way we are equal again both striker and the person unable to strike loses half a day pay. It could be done!

I have been on this forum before and stated publicly (as possible being Anon) that I would pay money to NAPO legal fund to fight TR. I will now repeat this and state that I will pay money - up front - into a hardship fund or similar to assist my colleagues in Sodexo CRCs.
We must stand together whether we can strike (as NOMS/NPS) or not. The unions need to act stronger than they have ever done and stand up together NOW.

I will support a hardship fund and strike action - if we fail to do this now - those of us who see the writing on the wall - may as well walk away now.

Veiled threats from Seetec about losing jobs if targets not met. Lots of new staff in the CRCs who would not strike and will be enough to keep offices ticking over whilst people lose money. I'm not against striking but I think we lost our chance and are now even more split.

Saturday 18 April 2015

In Politics You Need to be Lucky

Time I think for another digression whilst we wait for confirmation that the CRC owners have at last cottoned-on that they have indeed bitten off more than they can comfortably chew.

'If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal' so the saying goes and of course here in the UK we have a particularly crap electoral system that hasn't a hope in hell of delivering representation that comes anywhere near the true wishes of the people. But then we have the Liberal Democrats to thank for screwing up our one-and-possibly-only chance of electoral reform when they chose the wrong system to hold a referendum on.

And whilst on the subject of the Lib Dems, I'm absolutely clear that they and odious Nick Clegg must be punished for facilitating the demolition of the Probation Service. Of course he doesn't look too worried about a possible 'meltdown', despite breaking numerous promises, because he knows full well that the system he was too inept to change will in all probability carry on propping-up his party's share of the seats, if not the share of the vote. 

Embedded image permalink

Despite this, many of us may hope to see Clegg unseated in Sheffield, but smug bastard that he is, he knows full well that the anti-Clegg vote will be split between any number of hapless also-rans, thus ensuring he's quite likely to get returned. As I say, our system is crap and the unspoken but unpalatable truth is that for 90% of us, it's a complete waste of time putting a cross on a piece of paper.

Of course we can't speak of this for fear of frightening the horses and putting even more impressionable young people off from voting, but the reality is that most seats are 'safe' with not a cat in hell's chance of unseating some odious or uninspiring loyal party supporter, no matter how crap a job they do. 

For those who are unsure whether they reside in a constituency where voting is a waste of time or not, just count up how much party literature has been delivered along with the pizza menus. If the answer is close to zero, then your sitting MP and party has an important message for you 'I can happily do without your vote as shed loads of your neighbours vote me/us in every time'. 

The other parties have an important message for you as well 'It's a forgone conclusion round here and we're just going through the motions in order to provide a bit of training for our aspiring wannabees before we find them a safe seat'. But to add insult to injury and help bolster the illusion of a democratic process, one free leaflet from each party will be sent out, but paid for out of public not party funds. Our laughably-called Elected Representatives really do know how to take the piss.

Now I'm fortunate to live in a constituency where the sitting MP is likely to be unseated, but of course due to our crap electoral system and the rise of parties like the Greens and UKIP, they are just as likely to hang on because the opposition will be nicely split and thus pose no great threat at all. Labour is a close second as evidenced from the last general election, but could be robbed by a plethora of candidates with no hope of winning. 

I can't believe how 'tactical voting' is just never discussed nowadays, just like the Barnett Formula, because the big parties fear such loose talk would indeed scare the horses and upset the apple cart. It is completely unacceptable that Nicola Sturgeon feels she can hold the rest of the UK to ransom and just grins when Nigel Farage is the only politician who dares to mention that the free prescriptions and lack of university fees in Scotland is only possible because they are paid for by the rest of the UK under the Barnett Formula. 

Having said all this, the beauty of this election is that the outcome is pretty much unknown. Labour have all but given up on Scotland and will join the Tories in losing virtually all their seats to the SNP. We know there will be no party with overall control and deals will have to be struck between some unlikely bedfellows. We know politicians frequently break their promises and it's entirely possible that Barnett is revisited, no matter what was promised in order to swing the Independence Referendum in Scotland. 

I think we all know the Tory party is really the nasty party and the staggering numbers of people accessing Food Banks and suffering Benefit sanctions helps provide the evidence. Equally, the number of people forced to endure zero-hour contracts puts the recent 'glowing' emloyment figures into context, despite Iain Duncan Smith's valiant attempt to have them rebranded as 'flexible' contracts. And the Tories wonder why so many hate them and that the election isn't going well for them?  

Many commentators are beginning to notice that the Tories are getting worried that the message on the economy is not getting through, just as Ed Miliband is beginning to look more confident and possibly even Prime Ministerial. David Cameron is going to find it increasingly hard to shake off the charge that he dare not debate face-to-face with him and the signs are that, despite what buttons he pushes, nothing seems to be working in winning over the Electorate.

Embedded image permalink

Which brings me on to the strange phenomenon of 'cross-dressing'. Whilst Ed has been ensuring that Labour can't be accused of making lots of unfunded spending promises, the Tories have suddenly started promising lots of goodies without explaining where the money is coming from. The assumption is that it's just old-fashioned election bribery, but dear readers, I think there's another explanation and they definitely don't want you to know about it! 

Politics is as much about luck as anything and there is a silver bullet that could potentially nail the austerity question, fund public services, cure the debt burden and in one fell swoop give a massive boost to Labour by proving there really is another way. The story broke only a few weeks ago, but quickly forgotten as the caravan moved on, and that's just the way the Tories want to keep it. But it explains the sudden talk of Tory largess, together with Ed's rather more relaxed look of late. 

What the hell is it Jim? 

Why, we've struck oil!!     
A small British oil company has found a bonanza of potentially billions of barrels of oil beneath a field near London’s Gatwick Airport. The only problem is how much of the oil is accessible.
UK Oil and Gas Investments (UKOG) said April 9 that 3,000 feet of exploratory drilling at Wytch Farm in the Weald Basin, a rural area just north of the airport, discovered a “world-class potential resource.” The area is now referred to as “Britain’s Dallas.” It was the deepest well dug in the region in three decades.
“We think we’ve found a very significant discovery here, probably the largest [onshore well in the UK] in the last 30 years, and we think it has national significance,” UKOG CEO Stephen Sanderson told the BBC.
UKOG said an analysis of the deposit, called Horse Hill-1, shows it may contain up to 158 million barrels of oil per square mile, indicating that the entire well may hold as much as 100 billion barrels of oil, 10 times larger than previous estimates. The Weald Basin rivals the entire oil reserves of Kuwait, which sits over 101.5 billion barrels of crude. And the site may prove to be more productive – and easier to work – than North Sea wells, from which Britain has produced about 42 million barrels in the past 40 years. The North Sea is a leading source of oil for Britain, but has become less productive in the past 15 years.
"The Weald Basin rivals the entire oil reserves of Kuwait" - blimey, I bet this news might even wipe the smile off Nicola Sturgeon's face!


For those interested in following the oil story, believe in conspiracies or are just plain suspicious, amazingly, shortly after the initial statement from UKOG, another clarifying statement was issued and this story appeared in the Independent:-

Gatwick oil discovery: UKOG issues climbdown as black gold boom 'sounds too good to be true'

An oil boom may not be about to turn the area around Gatwick airport into the Dallas of southern England after all, despite excited announcements just last week that as many as 100 billion barrels of black gold may be lying beneath the fields of Kent, Sussex and Hampshire.

While experts were quick to cast doubt on the scale of the forecast, the small oil company involved was forced by the London Stock Exchange to make revised predictions.

The company said its estimate for the 3,500 square-mile Weald had been based upon limited exploration from a single well in a very small section of the overall basin – the 55 square mile Horse Hill licence that makes up a tiny fraction of the overall Weald basin. As a result, it was not in a position to make a forecast for the basin as a whole where the rock formations vary considerably depending on the area.

“The company has not undertaken work outside of its licence areas sufficient to comment on the possible oil in place [for] the weald basin,” the company said in a statement.

This is what John Ward of The Slog says:-

Although called the CEO of UKOG, Mr Sanderson is not on the Board, as such: in other words, he has no power. He’s got the title at UKOG, I’d imagine, because he has an outstanding record of both finding oil, and estimating what it’s worth.

With over three decades of experience under his belt, Sanderson can list several notable coups in his career: He was the key player in discovering the huge Norwegian Smørbukk-Midgard field complex for ARCO (now BP); and over time, he’s spearheaded and managed the successful appraisal of oil and gas fields in the North Sea, Netherlands and Algeria. He has an appraisal and exploration track record in excess of 170 fields with asset values of up to $7 Billion on average.

So Stephen Sanderson is no slouch. In fact, on hiring the bloke last January, David Lenigas, UKOG’s Chairman, commented: “Having been the author of the technical appraisal of our recent Horse Hill discovery in the Weald Basin, Stephen will add significant technical and commercial strength to the Company’s management team here in the UK.”

But on this occasion, he appears to have mispoken: when he said “world class find”, he meant to say “worthless find”.

To be exact, the Board on which he does not sit said that the company had “not undertaken work…sufficient to comment”. But Mr Sanderson, I have established, did not announce the revised estimate of the energy find to the media without the Board’s approval.

So why the sudden change of heart? Did Downing Street panic that the gaff might be about to blow on the destruction of its austerity and fracking rationales?