AGM 2010 Blog
Crispin Blunt speech to AGM 8th October 2010
See attached file below for the full text of Crispin Blunt's speech.
Edited: 15/10/2010 at 01:25 PM by AGM 2010 Moderator
So, 2010 AGM has closed, but early feedback suggests that it is already being acknowledged as one of the Union's most successful and dramatic (see Crispin Blunt report) in recent years!
As the 'Blogger' signs off, the extraordinary mission to rescue the 33 trapped Chilean Mineworkers is well underway. The analogy with the fight here against massively overwhelming odds in the form of incoming Public Sector cuts is the way in which the community of San Jose have shown what 'all being in it together' really means.
Yes I know it's all happening thousands of miles away from North Yorkshire; but perhaps the 'Phoenix Capsule' and the combined efforts of those who defeated the impossible, at once demonstrates 'Big Society' in action yet also provides an uplifting contrast to the cynical hijacking of the proud traditions of the Probation and Family Court Services by politicians who know nothing of hardship and struggle, yet whose ideas of society include the destruction of the proud traditions of the Probation and Family Court services and the selling off of our work on the high altar of private profit. The same people who believe that the 'sharing of the pain' should be borne by the most vulnerable sections of our communities who must pay the price of the profligacy of others.
As we face hard times in the fight for justice, lets all be uplifted by the courage and impassioned determination that flowed from the start of Napo's own rescue mission in Scarborough.
It seems certain given their ordeal, that the brave Mineworkers of San Jose quickly recognised that it wasn't the despair that would finish them, but the lack of hope. They did not wilt in the face of adversity but stood together in unity, in short they never stopped believing.
Neither should we.
A full report of the Motions that were carried at AGM will appear in the next edition of 'Napo News'. Meanwhile, see below for Tim Wilson's speech:
Edited: 15/10/2010 at 01:10 PM by AGM 2010 Moderator
Tony Mercer presents Family Court Section Annual Report
A GOOD YEAR FOR THE ROSES
1. Looking back over my previous Chair's reports I realise that they do tend towards gloom and doom. Now that gloom and doom is part of our everyday existence in this deficit-possessed age, I shall instead begin by recounting some of Napo's positive achievements in Cafcass over the last year.
2. The first thing to record is that virtually every member who was eligible to go to Target Pay has now done so, thanks in a very large measure to the behind-the-scenes efforts of Ian Lawrence, our Assistant General Secretary. FCAs are now paid as senior practitioners, even if they're not treated like them and fortunately this has been achieved before the new Government's public sector pay freeze.
3. The next achievement is that the Family Court Section has one of the highest recruitment records in Napo; unfortunately we have also lost a lot of members who have left Cafcass altogether, so that our complement of working members, presently 636, remains fairly static, although we have a further 50 odd retired/associate members.
4. Cafcass management has had a lot of critical media and parliamentary exposure this year and I make no apologies for the important contribution that Napo has made to this, from the "File on 4" Radio 4 programme on 28 February to the televised session of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee on 8 September, which came about as a result of Napo's submission to the National Audit Office last year. In the last couple of months Napo has made detailed and critical responses to the call for evidence of the Family Justice Review "The Working of the Family Courts" and to the call for evidence by the Munro Review of Child Protection and contributed to the Joint Position Statement of the Interdisciplinary Alliance for Children on the Delivery of Court Services to Children in Family Proceedings.
5. The credit for putting together these outstanding contributions must go to Paul Bishop, Napo National Vice Chair (Family Court Section) who, with Harry Fletcher (Napo Assistant General Secretary - public relations) has been assiduously campaigning with our professional allies in the Parliamentary arena.
6. Napo's detractors will say that we risk our members' jobs by publicly attacking Cafcass management. I don't accept this. On the contrary, I fear that if Cafcass continues on its present trajectory, determined by a morally corrupt and discredited inspectorate and implemented by a managerialist clique imported from the wreckage of Local Authority Children's Services, who do not understand or respect the history, culture, experience or achievements of Cafcass's founding professionals, we will cease to be able to justify our continued existence. In the present economic climate that really would risk our members' jobs and Napo will do everything in its power to prevent this.
7. It is also important that Napo speaks out in public about what is going on in Cafcass. We are increasingly receiving reports from our members that their basic right to freedom of expression as citizens in a democratic society is being denied by Cafcass. People are being threatened with disciplinary action for having private conversations that may be critical of management, which have been overheard by a third party. This is outrageous and we all have to resist this petty tyranny.
8. The Negotiating Committee has at last managed to get the pernicious Performance and Conduct Policy separated into two distinct policies: a Disciplinary Procedure and a Capability Procedure with a right of appeal against being placed in formal capability built in to it. These policies will be signed off very soon. We have also eventually signed a new Partnership Agreement, which although it has theoretically cut Napo's basic trade union facility time allowance, at least gives responsibility for its allocation to the Section and leeway to claim additional time for individual representations and statutory Health & Safety work. Our Family Support Worker rep has played a major part in challenging Cafcass's proposed new FSW job description. In the face of the imminent pay freeze, Napo FCS needs to lodge a regrading claim for FSWs in the next year. Finally, Cafcass is on the verge of accepting a Personal Safety Policy that Napo has promoted for the last nine years!
9. Over the year Napo has supported, with a fair degree of success, local disputes/collective grievances in London, N1, N7 and N4 (where a collective grievance greatly contributed to eventual "regime change"!). These were invariably triggered by local management's botched restructure plans and a failure to consult the trade unions properly. Where management have followed the Management of Organisational Change Policy - and Central Area has been the good example here - Napo has facilitated the consultation process to the mutual benefit of staff and management.
10. For me one of the biggest disappointments of the year, however, has been a collective grievance from members of a team in the South East, which was about alleged management bullying, harassment and capricious behaviour, but which was not upheld even at appeal. I am still shocked that serious allegations were made against a line manager in this grievance, which do not seem to have been properly investigated; indeed the manager in question was actually promoted while the grievance was being pursued. I believe that Napo has learnt from this failure for which I apologise to those involved and we will strive to do better in the future. One thing that has come clear over recent years is that the present Cafcass regime won't ever take any action against "their" managers whatever they might have done to their staff; whereas they will throw the book at "our" managers if they get half a chance, for being too decent and humane.
11. Most of what is wrong with Cafcass at the moment can be summed up in two words: "Human Resources". When it suits, Human Resources officers present themselves as management advisors (particularly if you made the mistake of thinking they might possibly promote your welfare), but they are really the tail that wags the management dog. They are proactive agents in the "performance management" process operated by line management at the behest of the Chief Executive, which so many of our members have experienced as bullying and abusive. Over the past 12 months Cafcass has initiated what many members believe is a deliberate onslaught against the long-term sick and staff with disabilities.
12. This group tends to overlap with that of the older, experienced staff, many with a FCWO or GAL background, who have given their working lives, and now their health, to public service. HR's mission seems to be brutally simple: to get rid of as many staff in this category as they can, at the least cost to the organisation by misusing the Performance & Conduct Procedures and misinterpreting the Management of Sickness Absence Policy. Their latest tactic is to suggest that the adjustments necessary to keep someone at work who is covered by the Disability Discrimination Act are not "reasonable" i.e. too expensive - By the way Cafcass is an organisation that boasts two "ticks" for disability awareness! Cafcass will no doubt claim that our observations are unfounded but our members expect to see the centre advising their HR managers to back off.
13. Members should not despair, however, as in my experience if Napo gets involved at an early stage we can curb HR's worst excesses; but there are three things members need to do:
a) Don't stay at work when you are ill - this poses far more risks to your continued employment than taking sick leave.
b) Don't be ashamed of going off with stress, anxiety and/or depression - these are still by far the highest declared reasons for sickness absence in Cafcass and it is particularly in your interests to record work-related stress.
c) Get in touch with your local Napo Convenor or H&S Rep as soon as you can and if you have been off work for more than two or three weeks do not come back to work before there has been a proper return to work meeting with your line manager at which you have a Napo rep.
13. It may be that working for Cafcass has eventually made you so ill that you need to take ill-health retirement - there were 40 ill-health retirements last year which is more than double the Cafcass norm - and if this seems to be the case, Napo will support you in achieving the best possible settlement.
14. At this point I need to talk about Trade Unions, Napo and the Family Court Section in particular, because in this ominous period of threatened, unprecedented public sector cuts, it is essential that all Napo members are at the same place; our livelihoods depend on it. A Trade Union is a mutual defence association. It derives its strength from its deterrent potential to take effective collective action and this is based not only on the proportion of the workforce who are unionised, but also on the number of members who are actively committed to the union because they understand that the best way to promote their personal interests at work is through solidarity and collective bargaining.
15. Napo is not an emergency break-down service. The FCS doesn't run a 24/7 call centre which will dispatch employment lawyers to individual members on demand. If we did, the subs would need to be multiplied by a factor of ten at the very least!
16. While Paul Bishop gives most of his national Napo Vice-Chair time to the Section, taking the lead on professional issues and campaigning and additionally covering two Regional Sections and Ian Lawrence (AGS) and Mike McClelland (Napo National Officer) give a disproportionate amount of their time to the Section, since they also have responsibility for the 8,000 Napo members who don't work for Cafcass, I'm the only full-time resource the Section has at the moment and my time is fully taken up by my national negotiating, Section Executive Committee, national Health & Safety, Northern Area TU Partnership and representational responsibilities (over the year I have been involved to varying degrees in 35 individual representations and four collective grievances, which concerned another 70 or so members.
17. The lion's share of the everyday Napo FCS work is done by the ten Regional Convenors, most of whom get just one day a week to do Napo trade union duties. In the absence of a usable workload measurement tool, even that workload relief can be academic and many Napo reps are still carrying heavy caseloads. Members need to bear all this in mind when they come to the Section for advice and help. If more members became active in the Section before they needed the union's assistance, even in small ways, it would ease the elected officers' burden, which would benefit everyone.
18. We need members to volunteer to be office/team contacts; to be local Health & Safety reps (for which there is statutory time-off both for duties and training); we need grass-roots members to approach non-members in their office to ask them to join Napo - we can provide excellent recruitment materials; we need lay members to join the Family Court Committee, which deals with professional, campaigning, PR and training issues in the Section, the Editorial Board of the FCC Journal, the Cafcass Negotiating Committee; to represent us on the Cafcass Health & Safety Steering Group, on the Napo National Executive Committee and on Napo national committees like the Trade Union Organising Committee, and we desperately need a new generation of members to come forward to be Convenors - there's no mystique to it, social workers potentially have the skills to perform this role and Napo will provide training for which there is statutory time off. Napo is your union and it works best when lots of ordinary members get involved and if you don't agree with what the elected officers are doing, you can replace them democratically and try to do it better yourselves!
19. The SEC is bringing two motions to the SAGM this year. One is on reorganising the Section which is pretty self-explanatory. The way we currently organise the Section, which in the past has contributed to Napo's success as the biggest, most effective union in Cafcass, is no longer fit for purpose. Given Cafcass's present method of operating and a down-turn in the active participation of Napo members, we need to regroup order to deal with Cafcass's ever-changing structures more effectively and to re-energise the rank-and-file.
20. Don't get me wrong; the Section isn't failing yet and membership levels are holding as I have already said. The 636 working members break down into 547 FCAs, 46 SMs, 27 FSWs, 12 Business Support and 4 HoSs and represents about 44% of the total workforce. If you add in the UNISON (and PCS) members, it means that about two thirds of the workforce is unionised, which is not bad. We would, however, be in a so much stronger position to face the oncoming storm if we could claim over 50% of the Cafcass workforce for Napo. So if you are in your office and you bump into someone (as you desperately search for some workspace) who is not in a union, particularly if they are FSWs or FCAs, just ask them to join Napo - see there are some advantages to hot-desking!
21. The second motion that the SEC is proposing is calling on the National Executive Committee (Napo's supreme policy making body between Annual Conferences) to authorise an indicative ballot on industrial action since Cafcass has failed to introduce a usable workload measurement tool by the deadline of 8 October 2010 which Napo set them in June. As I write this, Cafcass is desperately trying to put something together. Personally I don't think what's being offered will help members avoid being overworked, but it's up to the SAGM to decide on that.
22. Some members may say that this is too late and that Napo should have gone ahead with a ballot at the end of March. The threat of a ballot in the Spring actually triggered the Vince Clark Workload Allocation Protocol; the problem then for the Negotiating Committee was that when we took soundings among the members, although there were pockets of militancy, the overwhelming feed-back suggested that the ballot would have been lost and that would have been an unmitigated disaster for the Section.
23. So what's different now? Well, we've moved Cafcass to position where they can no longer deny that the new ways of working can't be measured. This means that it's possible to construct a workload measurement tool, which practitioners can use to calculate how much case work they can fit into their contractually available hours and which will therefore inform the amount of work they can be individually allocated. And we have given Cafcass a reasonable deadline to produce such a workload measurement tool. Meanwhile on the ground the overworking goes on and the Workload Allocation Protocol is being breached regularly.
24. In various parts of the country managers are now ordering that caseloads should be 25! We strongly suspect that this figure has come down from the Chief Executive and it is typical of the way that Cafcass Senior Management persistently mismanages this service and seeks to undermine or by-pass the Trade Union Partnership Agreement. When I think about the outrage Cafcass Senior Management expressed when Napo tried to put figures on caseloads, their current hypocrisy is palpable.
25. The political landscape has also changed massively, which means that we must take urgent and decisive action to control workloads. There always was a hidden agenda under the "Safeguarding - Performance Management" smokescreen that sought to have less practitioners doing more work. Under New Labour this justified Senior Management's bonuses and a mushrooming HR Department. Under the ConDems this hidden agenda will become overt and so we have to make it crystal clear now what a Cafcass employee can reasonably achieve in a working day and that we will no longer allow our members to be made ill or incompetent by overworking.
26. Harold Mozley, who has recently retired and who as an active member of the FCC and lately the SEC will be sorely missed, used to tell me that we already had a perfectly good workload measurement tool called a clock! Unfortunately because of the bizarre nature of Industrial Relations legislation we can't restrict ourselves to our working hours without the permission of an industrial action ballot. So be it - one way or another we need a workload measurement tool now. If Cafcass doesn't give it to us, then the time for action will have finally arrived and we need all members to support that unconditionally. This will also be a prelude to the wider trade union struggle to defend the welfare state and public sector jobs which we must soon join if we want to survive.
Edited: 12/10/2010 at 06:37 PM by IanLawrence
General Secretary 2010 AGM Address
See attached file below for Jonathans Conference speech in full
Edited: 15/10/2010 at 01:12 PM by AGM 2010 Moderator
Family Court Section General Meeting in determined mood
Members from the Family Court Section gathered in Scarborough yesterday afternoon to debate the key issues of workloads, bullying and the future of Cafcass.
The SAGM also agreed to invite senior Cafcass Directors Jabbar Sardar and Vince Clark who joined Napo Assistant General Secretary Ian Lawrence on a question and answer panel. The Cafcass delegation was also represented by Naintara Khosla and Marie Ereira. Unison were also welcomed and represented by David Jolly.
The SAGM commenced with reports from Tony Mercer, Paul Bishop and Ian Lawrence (Tony and Pauls speeches will appear in full next week on this site)
In his address to the SAGM Ian Lawrence focused on the current Governments cuts agenda claiming that the ConDem coalition had no mandate for the action they were poised to take which threatened the poorest members of society and the livelihoods of whole swathes of the community.
On relationships with the employer Ian said that while there had been substantial progress in reducing the use of suspension as well as the length of such cases, he was still concerned at the disproportionate numbers given the size of Cafcass. He also applauded the efforts of Convenors and the ongoing support from Family Court Section members in the Cafcass network.
He also said that while criticism of Chief Executive Anthony Douglas was in many respects well deserved it would be a mistake to blame him exclusively for the difficulties that our members faced and that the organisation as a whole was still dysfunctional in many areas.
On workload policy Ian acknowledged members disappointment at the fact that it had not yet been possible to secure a joint agreement on a Workload measurement formula but explained that the negotiations were at a critical stage and should be given one last chance to succeed.
Nevertheless Ian urged members to support the motion seeking an indicative ballot of FCS members as an additional lever in the negotiations.
The successful Q&A session before lunch included a range of questions on bullying, operational policy, and the credibility of the relationship between Napo and Cafcass. Tony Mercer hoped that his might become a standing feature of future SAGM's.
Details of the motions that were subsequently carried in the afternoon session will appear on the blog next week
Colin brings the house down
The Prison Officers Union Deputy General Secretary Colin Moses provided the fraternal address to AGM this afternoon pledging unity with Napo over the government's cuts agenda which he described as pernicious and oppressive.
Colin drew huge applause and much laughter as he contrasted the tax dodging activities of some of the main Tory party financial sponsors and the millions of public service workers who paid their due taxes on time.
Ridiculing the ignorance of the new administration's Ministers over the realities of probation and prisons Colin posited a question as to how the Minister proposed to force prisoners to work who were incapacitated due to disability or dependency on alcohol or drugs.
Colin called on all public sector unions to be ready to take direct action in defence of jobs and services
Blunt gets a sharp response to 'competitiveness' plea
New Probation and Prisons Minister Crispin Blunt received a mixture of loud applause, the fastest standing ovation on record and howls of subsequent derision during his speech to Conference this afternoon.
Since he is the first member of the 'ConDem' Government to go on record in praising the professionalism and dedication of probation staff, the almost immediate standing ovation that the Minister received was a classic example of supreme irony.
Looking visibly surprised and delighted at the reaction, Crispin went on to heap glowing praise on Napo members describing them as the 'National experts' on Offender management. Not content with stating the obvious very early on, Crispin slammed the inherent beauracracy that sees Probation Officers spending too much time on the computer instead of engaging with service users.
This was excellent stuff; but sadly Crispin then invoked a massive mood swing from euphoria to instant disdain by mentioning the dreaded three words: 'payment by results.'
Drawing on the 'Big Society' theme as espoused by his colleagues at this weeks Tory Party Conference, Crispin waxed lyrically about the huge army of volunteers that are apparently out there....somewhere; suggesting that
they had an important role in helping to deliver Offender Management services and that Napo members had a 'great opportunity' to show that they were the best deal in town on value for money and ensuring that those they come into contact with make proper reparations to the community.
The subsequent question and answer session invoked more high octane debate where the Minister was given a serious going over by members who among other things pointed out that Napo members had already demonstrated their excellence despite the fact that successive government's had denied them the necessary resources and support that we have consistently been calling for.
In his excellent summing up of the debate, General Secretary Jonathan Ledger thanked Crispin for coming to Scarborough and for outlining his views in such a full and frank manner, welcoming the positive aspects of the Ministers speech, especially the early sections, but then suggesting that it had gone somewhat downhill thereafter, especially the bits relating to the imminent threat of privatisation.
Jonathan received a rapturous ovation.
2010 AGM gets underway in Scarborough
National Napo Chair Tim Wilson opened a packed 2010 Annual General Meeting in Scarborough this afternoon. Welcoming all who were attending despite the nearby railway engineering works Tim also offered congratulations to Dino Peros and Lisa Robinson upon their successful election to the Vice Chair positions. Apologies were also recorded from Cordell Pillay Assistant General Secretary.
Speeches from Napo Officers and our Guests will appear in full later in the AGM Blog.
Hutton publishes interim report on Public Sector Pensions
Lord Hutton has today published his interim report on the future of Public Service Pensions.
Whilst the implications for the Local Government Pension Scheme are not yet clear, the following press release was issued by the Independent Review Commission. The full report can be accessed via: http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/indreview
Lord Hutton of Furness today set out the case for change in public service pensions: longer lives, the unfairness of a system that rewards high?flyers disproportionately, the imbalance of risk between taxpayers and employees and contribution rates that do not reflect the value of benefits received all demonstrate the need for reform.
In publishing the Independent Public Service Pensions Commission's Interim Report, John Hutton said:
"The current public service pension system has been unable to respond flexibly to changes in life expectancy over the past few decades - someone retiring now can expect to spend 40% of their adult life in retirement. This has driven up costs - by a third in the past decade - and these extra costs have fallen almost entirely to taxpayers. The final salary link in public service pensions is inherently unfair and can lead to high flyers getting almost twice as much back in pensions than those on more modest earnings for the same amount of pension contributions. It is also acts as a barrier to free movement of employees from the public to private sector.
The case for reform is clear. "But it is wrong to say that public service pensions are gold?plated. The average pension paid to pensioner members is about £7,800 a year. About half of pensioners receive less than £5,600 a year.
And 90% of pensioners receive less than £17,000 a year. Although these figures are partly accounted for by part?time or part?career working these pensions provide a modest - not an excessive ? level of retirement income.
"I also reject the argument that the downward drift of pensions in the private sector is justification that pensions in the public sector must follow the same course. I have rejected a race for the bottom."
Speaking in Liverpool at the National Association of Pension Funds (NAPF) annual conference on the day of publication, John Hutton said:
"Long?term structural reform is needed, as the issues with the current system cannot be dealt with through traditional final salary defined benefit schemes. But neither can they be dealt with appropriately through a funded individual account defined contribution model given that this would place a major financing burden on taxpayers, ignore the ability of Government as a large employer to manage risk, and increase uncertainty of post?retirement income for scheme members, which is difficult in particular for the low paid to manage. We need an alternative scheme model that provides a fair sharing of risk between the employer and employee and adequate pensions to members."
The Commission's final report, looking at long term structural reform options, will be delivered in time for the 2011 Budget.
John Hutton continued:
"In my final report I will consider a range of alternative structures. This will include a career average alternative to the current final salary defined benefit schemes. Drawing upon international experience, alternatives such as Sweden's use of notional defined contribution schemes and the Netherlands' collective defined contribution schemes will be examined, as will risk sharing models, such as hybrid schemes that combine elements of defined benefit and defined contribution models."
In line with the Commission's Terms of Reference, the interim report also considers the case for delivering savings on public service pensions within the spending review period. It concludes that given the implementation time for any longer term reforms there is a case for short term changes, especially given that the Commission found that current Government assumptions may well underestimate the cost to the taxpayer and past increases in life expectancy have been paid for in the most part by taxpayers.
The Commission feels that, if the Government wishes to make short?term savings, then raising contribution rates would be the most effective way. But in doing so they should have regard to protecting the low paid and should not introduce contribution rates for the armed forces at this time.
Tim Wilson address to AGM
In a wide ranging address Tim talked about the pressures on Napo and the crisis that members are facing as a result of the intended government cuts.
Mentioning the operational pressures that members are working under and the inadequate IT systems that they have to cope with Tim paid tribute to the work of Napo activists in assisting Napo's campaigns, and hoped that a new generation of activists would come forward from Branch meetings.
Making it clear that Napo is totally opposed to the possible outsourcing of Community Service and the idea that former service personnel should be exploited to undertake this work at lower pay, Tim pledged Napo's unreserved resistance.
Special criticism was reserved for Cafcass over the outcome of a recent GSSC hearing that exonerated a former Napo Convenor, Charles Place of gross misconduct.
Turning to the defeat of the British National Party in the local and general election, Tim praised the efforts of Napo members in the anti-fascist campaigns.
Finally Tim thanked the National Officers for their work on behalf of members and also mentioned the courageous public intervention by Lisa Robinson who faced down a gang of hooligans in Cardiff recently.
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