General Secretary's Blog
General Secretary's Blog
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GRAYLING LOSES HIS BUDDI
No surprise there you may think, but this time it's one his erstwhile mates in the form of the hi-tech company called Buddi. The fall out appears to be over the intellectual property (IP) rights between the provider and the Mo's specification requirements for the beleaguered tagging contract and the age old dilemma of who pays for what, and most importantly, who specifically owns it.
Anyone who has experience of this type of occurrence (as I have after dealing with untold numbers of utterly incompetent private companies in another life), won't be at all surprised at seeing a potential provider duck out of a major project after coining it off the taxpayer for as long as they can manage it.
It's reported that the project, which Chris Grayling has hailed as "the most advanced tagging system in the world", has already been delayed by 14 months. One report says that rivals 3M and Steatite, missed out on preferred bidder status when Buddi won its part of the EM contract in August and will probably be invited to bid again. Buddi's piece of the action so far from a deal allegedly worth £1bn is believed to be worth around £300m.
The moral of all this? Be ready for a litany of similar sob stories if the TR cowboys get their mitts on a CRC near you. The victims of such misfortune in the long term will be you, and your jobs, and your terms and conditions as the 'innovation agenda' (how sanctimonious does that sound by the day) falls apart on the back of all sorts of promises made by the privateers bid teams compared with the reality of actual service delivery as seen in the London Serco CP fiasco.
This type of scandal -once again at the taxpayers' expense- is just one of a number of reasons for the escalation of our industrial action. It's really a case of you and your buddies today and someone else next if we don't stand up and fight.
But he may gain another
In the form of those ever such nice people called 'Sentinel'. I blogged about these with a link to a quite horrendous video a couple of months ago, and Napo's tenacious researcher Margaret Pearce alerts me to this latest story. This features the plight of a recipient of their unique and 'unusual' business model: the offender pays probation costs!
Now like most citizens I believe in a bit of reparation in amongst the befriend, direct and rehabilitate agenda but Sentinels 'innovative' (that word again) has caused such a storm over conflict of interest in the United States where civil liberties websites have picked up the story, about them illegally extending probation orders. It also featured in Google Alerts some time ago. Of course, it could never happen here, could it? http://thinkprogress.org/justi...sentences-judge-finds/
Well if you missed the announcement, here Sentinel are, having passed the first round of the bidding criteria for the great TR sell off.
But a moment's sober reflection yet again confirms the point Napo is making about all the dangers of untested models: it seems obvious that passing financial costs on to people caught in the justice system is exactly what will result in an increase in crime and more people coming out of prison with Graylings legendary £46 quid in their pockets. Back in the day when the justice system had extensive fines: "Do the crime and pay the fine", was a common saying but because it made next to no difference on reoffending figures it was one of the key factors why fines have been used much less over in recent years.
And before you wonder who the Managing Director of Sentinel (we are watching over you) is, its...yes, one David Griffiths who used to be with G4S......and the MoJ..... and London Probation.
Comforting isn't it?
M'Learned friends are a bit miffed
A rip roaring day of strike action last Friday which seriously impacted on the court system showed how out of touch this government is when they can seriously upset people who once upon a time might be seen as natural constituents of the two parties who make up this unholy alliance.
The sight of hundreds of fully robed silks (and Maxine Peake of Silks TV fame) plus lawyers as part of the brilliant demo organised by Matt Foot and friends from the Justice Alliance had more than its fair share of laughs as well as proper seriousness.
Speaker after speaker lambasted the coalition about the assault on legal aid and that new Minister Simon Hughes, who was noticeably absent presumably because he is so clearly under manners from the Secretary of State.
In my contribution where I expressed fraternal greetings on your behalf, I made mention of the new revelations from the Ellison report about suppressed evidence that would have made a big difference to the lines of police enquiry into the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence and the subsequent McPherson and IPCC enquiries saying that this cast a grave shadow over the British Justice system.
I also announced the strike dates we have now served formal notice of, which was greeted with acclaim, as was my hope that he Justice Alliance might feel able to co-ordinate their next stoppage at the same time as ours.
Biggest 'giggle of the day' award had to go to Parliaments Black Rod, who was apparently very disturbed by the inordinate din from the assembled masses who were aided by a top dollar mobile sound system. Black Rod despatched the local constabulary to tell us to turn it down, but the message kind of got lost in translation as Paddy Hill of the Birmingham Six launched into a decibel enhanced tirade against the establishment.
My quip that Black Rod should just do what all too many people in Parliament do, and that's put cotton wool in his ears and pretend nothing's happening, made a few folk laugh too.
More later this week on the Lords and the PAC but meanwhile let's start gearing up for the next strike and action short of strike. It's about belief and it's about our future.
Members agree new focus on the campaign as further strike action announced
This weeks Special General Meeting has attracted a wide range of comment about what was achieved and not achieved by way of constitutional amendments and as always not everyone got what they had hoped for from it.
The idea of mixing up the agenda with a range of speakers was designed to relieve what can admittedly be something of a confusing process and some have doubted the value of it overall. Fair enough, we are all entitled to an opinion, and as you will have seen I am always happy to stand by mine and air them in public (as you would expect) so let me say that the SGM presented us with a great opportunity to bring all those members who made a tremendous effort to get to Birmingham up to speed with where are, and are heading in our campaign against TR, and to make important announcements during the closed session.
The response to the lunchtime demo outside the Town Hall was spectacular and as you know now, very newsworthy.
In my address to the SGM I announced that the Industrial Action Planning Group (appointed and accountable to your National Executive) had decided to recommend further strike action over 31st March and 1st April.
It won't be universally popular to everyone, strike action never is and it's actually not a very pleasant task to ask members to make that sacrifice, but we need to do it and I have reproduced my (abridged) speech below if you are interested in why I believe so.
SGM SPEECH 5TH MARCH 2014 (abridged)
Chair, Conference: Ian Lawrence - General Secretary, with a statement concerning our industrial and legal strategy which for obvious reasons we have had to organise at the start of this lunchtime break.
Let's quickly reflect on what has happened since last October and that ballot result
You had a strike on 5/6 November, a magnificent show of unity that put probation and Napo on the map again - you made that difference and gave our industrial campaign the kick start that it needed
You were then asked to take part in action short of strike action and that too was a big ask because of what you do and the way that you do it: commitment, professionalism, dedication compassion,
And while I understand peoples reluctance to not undertake or finish a task that might impact negatively on a client, remember that every non- essential minute given for free is one credit more in the pockets of the would be privateers
Later into the autumn the Moj then imposed a sifting and assignment process thus wrecking the prospect of an agreed process for the insidious split which I have regularly highlighted as some perverse form of professional apartheid
All this eventually meant that Unison had to move to register a trade dispute (more about that in a moment)
ACAS were called in and then further negotiations with Ministers secured further concessions and we signed up to a new NNC Framework agreement - you helped make that difference and I reject the assertion that we have somehow heralded this as the greatest thing since sliced bread! It's an agreement that affords members more protections than they were offered before, and more protections than I have seen for any set of workers in similar circumstances.
Moreover, it is an agreement that will cost the would be contractors money that they will not have accounted for, in the areas of pensions, continuity and early severance should that be members choice
At times of struggle and the pain that accompanies it, it's entirely understandable that some members might want to lash out at Napo; but remember this is not a disaster of our making and let's not dismiss the collectivism and comradeship that has seen this union pull together in a way that many thought was not possible
So let me make it clear - this is one union, with one shared objective which is to try and defeat the greatest and most sinister threat to our members and their livelihoods that we have ever faced and will face in our history. So let's all get with the script, get our collective shoulders behind the wheel and let's move forward together!
Serco and G4S and the whole shambles
At around the same time as reaching the NNC framework agreement we saw Serco and G4s decide to not take part in the TR sell off as Prime bidders. Great news and not before time but of course they should not have had the option; and ought to have been suspended and indeed barred from involvement in current and future contracts, but in the corrupt world of contract management and procurement it seems that the rules are made up as people go along, and that Great Satan's like Serco with £17billion on their order books while bidding for £12 billion pounds worth of Government contracts can do what they please. The fact that this great conglomerate has been scared off the probation pitch and that they are out of the picture and soon to be out of London CP as well....is yes, good riddance; but we can also say that it was your efforts through our campaign that helped to heap the pressure on these people - you made a difference
So the bid process is a shambles as the government scurries around looking to save face (as Dean will explain in a bit more detail later on)
The MOJ are throwing pots of money to set up marketing events to teach providers how to be entrepreneurial in a day, and yes if you had not heard there is such an event taking place across town in Birmingham today at the Thistle hotel. How shameful?
Sadly it clashes with our important business but I think we can send a loud enough signal from our seats which says:
You are not welcome in Birmingham
In fact you are not welcome anywhere and certainly not in probation and when you start to arrive through the door in Offices to check out the goods and the staff you may find that people decide to spontaneously walk out to show their disgust. Of course I cannot condone such action for reasons with which you are aware.
So we now need to ramp up the pressure
Bidders hinting already at dropping away as our research indicates that the likely future average unit cost for 'advisers' (not even practitioners) in privately run CRC's is reckoned to be around c£20k, or otherwise contracts are not likely to be awarded as commercially viable, ergo they (and that includes those nice smiley friendly people from organisations like Working Links) will have to sack you in the long term to save money
So we now need to ramp up the pressure
As we are doing in Parliament and you will hear more later about the Parliamentary campaign but a word about the shift in Labours position where before Xmas Sadiq Khan made a statement on tearing up contracts if they are awarded in dubious circumstances and that Labour are now saying that they don't see a place for the private sector in rehabilitation programmes.
Ok it's good; its welcome but it still does not cut it for our members who want to see a firm 'there will be no privatisation of probation' pledge writ large in your election manifesto!
On the back of the Serco CP disaster Napo unison and GMB have made a submission to the ILO which Grayling contemptuously waves away as silly (he would) but we will see what the ILO have to say about the use of forced labour for profit and the articles that preclude the use of the private sector.
So where do we go from here?
Let's firstly clarify the position on Judicial Review otherwise known as the 'search for Spock' and let me firstly make it clear that this still remains a live option but one that is just as tricky a path to tread as when we first started out, and I hope from what I have to say you will understand why.
As you know, we and Leading Counsel have explored the potential for challenging the procedures adopted under the Offender Management Act 2007.
We have, through a circular to Napo Branches, encouraged Branches to prompt their respective Probation Trusts to undertake further risk assessments in respect of the rehabilitation process and secure a copy of the same, with a view to identifying whether there may be scope to challenge the timetabling by the Secretary of State as high risk.
This can only be explored further on the basis of up-to-date information from each Probation Trust (or as many as practicable).
So we need your help
Information has been received from a number of Trusts regarding the assignment process, and these are being examined. There may also be a route here in the case of those Trusts where they are refusing to implement the grievance procedure in response to the assignment process, where those grievances raise equality issues. This might be challenged as a breach of the public sector equality duty.
In order to progress this further, I am also awaiting details of what are described as the "vulnerable" Trusts, because it may be more effective to challenge the approach in relation to those Trusts than others
So again, I need your help
In so far as the tender process and the current approach to "payment by results", is concerned our legal advisers will be reviewing this on receipt of the hard copy of the invitation to tender ITT (as yet to be received).
Finally, Napo is submitting comments on the draft Staff Transfer Scheme, and in the event that some of these issues are not taken on board in the next following draft version of the scheme, this might also give rise to legal challenge.
Turning now to the need to maintain our industrial strategy
Let's first consider the realpolitik of what we can deliver in the way of sustained industrial action
Look, we have never been in a position to order weekly strikes and cannot put you in a position where we could see hundreds of suspensions;
For the record that's not because of a lack of leadership but its recognition of the fact that laws governing strike action were not written for our benefit
But let's also recognise that our campaign has always sought to maximise its strengths and use strategic opportunities to raise our profile and we have I believe done that very well as you will hear later from Tania Bassett.
In the same way when we launched our industrial campaign we have been honest in saying that further strike action would have to be invoked at a time when it was likely to secure greatest public attention
Some have said that our strike action ought to have been about the split alone but sorry, as painful as it is, the public don't understand the nuances of that particular journey of pain that you are going through; they don't get the fact that for many of your clients your interface with them is a little bump on the tough pathway of life; but a critically important one that hopefully prevents them stumbling your way again in the future. They (the public) don't sadly get that as they should, and we have to occasionally remind them and the politicians as well in terms of the risks posed by TR and that now has to be the prime focus of the campaign
But they do get the madness of seeing important work such as client management, intervention and rehabilitation going into the hands of privateers such as Serco and G4s and although they are out of it for now, there are others waiting to take their place by way of the Carillion's, Sodexo's and GeoAmey's of this world so with that in mind and the need to ramp up the pressure on the market, it's why your industrial action planning group have recommended to the officers that we now ask members to step up to the plate again
So I will therefore shortly be issuing notice to each Probation trust that we will be asking our members to withdraw their services over the period 31st March to the 1st April (the 1st being Chris Graylings Birthday wouldn't you just know it) now to be forever known as 'Grayling day.'
So it's us yet again and you'll rightly say where is Unison again? I made my position on this clear in one of my recent blog postings, but the fact is their original dispute was decided upon by their democratic processes and it's for them to decide where they go next not us
But I have positive news
The NUT strike on 26th march
Our learned friends from the Justice Alliance - out this Friday where I will be addressing a strike rally and from the discussions we had with them recently they are well in line to take further action on a co-ordinated basis with Napo so if you can get along to any local demos this week in your area and show solidarity it may help that cause
Then there are our old friends from the POA who have also said that they are hoping to stage demonstrations at the same time as our next planned action.
So we are not alone and we are seeking to co-ordinate action (it's like herding cats mark you) but we are getting there
Yes I know another strike in itself will not destroy Graylings plans but it will represent a show of strength to those vultures hanging on them trees
There are a number of reasons why well supported action is strategically important and the messages to bidders goes something like this:
Your future workforce are well organised, well unionised and will be a perennial pain in your backside
When it all starts to go pear-shaped don't say you weren't warned
When you don't get the profit you expected from the PbR scheme that won't work don't say you were not told
And when those cases of serious further harm come in don't look at our members and ask why!
But as well as promoting these things we need to make sure we strengthen the Napo presence in the CRC's. If we are the union of choice in Probation that must extend across the NPS and CRC environment and as I have said before there's nothing like a strong union majority among the workforce to scare the pants off any prospective bidder and you are our best recruiting Sergeant's when it comes to why people should be in NAPO so if there is a non Napo member near you then engage them and let's see our numbers start to spiral upwards!
As part of our action short of strike action we are also looking closely at sessional work and how the government relies on this to keep up appearances while you and I know that if it was not done in the volumes that it is, it would cause operational chaos. Tom may want to say a few words about that a bit later.
So there are just a few reasons why we are heading to the ramparts again, but I acknowledge that we will encounter the 'why bother' question back there in the network
So why bother? Why not just let it all wash over us? Why not as I saw in one really amusing but clearly misinformed offering the other day, why don't we have a ballot?
Err because we don't need one! We already have a mandate, it's the mandate that our members voted for last Autumn and a mandate that we need to pick up on and step up to as and when needed, acting as we always have done as a responsible but principled trade union
Essentially the affirmative to that negative is this:
We cannot afford to let it wash all over us; we cannot afford to sit back while this inept, incompetent, perniciously ignorant bunch called the coalition gets about systemically destroying the social infrastructure of this country, looking for the quickest fastest cheapest buck that it can and lining the palms of their mates with pieces of silver
And we can't sit back because we are in a struggle of massive attrition and you feel the pain and we feel the pain and any notion that Napo centrally and the staff you employ are somehow free from the implications of our campaign collapsing is not only fanciful but downright insulting
If we allow ourselves to fall apart without a fight then it's all our futures that are at stake and I bring you a message from each and every one of your employees, this struggle is our collective struggle and we stand together or fall together... that has to be the rallying cry from here on in as we seek to show society and Chris Grayling what we are truly about
For this ladies and Gentlemen is Napo.... And they who want rid of us be they government or privateers had better believe it!
We are here now we will be here in the future until such time as we are carried off on our shields
So let's get out there after today and spread the words loud and clear
This isn't over yet by a long stretch....so let's take that message forward
More news next week including an account of the Justice Alliance Rally. Have a great weekend all.
FACING SEVEN BIG DAYS TOGETHER
Preparation for the Special General Meeting in Birmingham tomorrow means less time than normal for this posting, but we are about to embark on another big week of activity during which Napo members will be asked to step up to the plate again as we seek to find a new direction to our dispute.
We start with the SGM and the key constitutional debates that we need to have to ensure we are well placed for the future bargaining structures that we are currently negotiating (see BR/28/2014 issued today). Then there is the run up to next weeks Offender Rehabilitation Bill debate in the House of Lords on 11th March, where we will see if all those 'Crossbenchers' are still onside in the face of the Tory lie machine that is spinning out all the old claptrap about TR having gone so far it is madness to turn back now. Irrespective of the outcome there, this campaign is still not over by a long shot, and this will be followed by a drop in/lobby event on the 12th aimed at potential LibDem and Tory MP's who are increasingly sharing our concerns. Then there is the powerful evidence put together by the campaign team here at Chivalry Road for the attention of the influential Public Accounts Committee (PAC) who will meet soon. This will of course be published widely once we have observed parliamentary protocol by letting the Committee see it first.
Among other things the PAC will no doubt be interested in the continual obfuscation displayed by the Moj to our Freedom of Information request as to just how much this pile of garbage (you know what I mean but I don't have the journalistic licence as in other blogs) is actually costing the taxpayer.
Your money no object
But filthy lucre is of no consequence when it comes to the to the megalomaniac zeal of Mr Grayling and his minions, who have never found a problem in securing whatever resources they need to persistently shove this odorous TR thing through your letterbox. One rich seam that they have continued to mine come what may, is of course your goodwill in doing stuff like sessional work, which if it were just not done, would put a hefty spanner in the works.
Still in the struggle
We will also be having a closed lunchtime session tomorrow where I will be bringing members up to speed on industrial developments and why we need to gear up again to demonstrate at what is a critically important time in the sell off process just why the TR agenda poses such a monumental risk to public safety. Oh, and I will be making a statement about the scope for Judicial Review which I am happy to confirm is still a live possibility, but just as tricky a road to negotiate as it was some months back.
More later this week then. Meanwhile, I hope that we can come away from Birmingham tomorrow with a fresh focus and renewed energy for what is the start of the critical point in our campaign.
Finally, I know its tough out there and your patience is at its limit but we cannot afford to weaken or turn in on ourselves now.
That SGM next week and why it is important
Napo members meet again en-masse on Wednesday 5th March in Birmingham for what is a critically important gathering. On the face of it, constitutional changes are not exactly the stuff to make the earth shake, but changes to keep us legal and effective are nevertheless required. So our own 'Town Hall' will be asked to give us a clear steer of direction and there will also be a number of top quality speakers on topical and professional issues who I am sure will enliven the occasion. Those attending will also hear news about the TR campaign in a closed lunchtime session, and we hope that there may also be an opportunity to hand out material to the passing public as well.
You can register online for free on the home page of the website and avoid a bit of a queue if you do decide to turn up on the day. It's unusual for us to meet mid-year, but then these are unusual times; and it will be a pleasure to see you all again.
Justice Alliance and Nut gear up for action
News from a meeting of the Trade Union Co-ordinating Group today, where the 'withdrawal of labour' by our learned friends in the Justice Alliance on the 7th March featured prominently. They are also exploring the possibility of further action beyond this. Meanwhile it also seems clear that the NUT is at an advanced stage of planning for Industrial action (as are we). Watch this space.
A Social Work Qualification?
As reported in Napo news a while ago, it was not possible to secure funding for an extension of the Learning Fund (ULF England) and its activities will cease at the end of April. Meanwhile, Project Manager Marilyn Owens has done a great job in securing the services of a number of Universities to promote an introductory course to becoming a Social Worker which, in a sign of the times, has seen nearly 700 expressions of interest from Probation staff.
One of the objectives of the ULF is to open up routes for staff to explore all sorts of additional skills and alternative career opportunities, but even those who might want to seriously consider a career in social work should be aware of the fact that many local authorities have been shedding jobs around the country, and a leap into the dark may be even worse than the uncertainty before you.
So while we are happy to draw your attention to this initiative I thought that I ought to add this caveat to avoid any misunderstanding about our position on this.
Some facts about the bidders
Lots more to come about the privateers on the bidding list and why they should not be let within a country mile of a probation office; but as a taster we have resurrected some material about Sodexo that was put out a while back: cleanupsodexo.org. The passage of time has not diminished the facts about who these people are and I hope that all those establishment leaders and lackeys who are falling over themselves to crawl around this bunch might just take a deep breath and wonder exactly whose interests are going to be served if they get their ugly foot in the door.
Meanwhile we are working with Unison and GMB to press the MoJ to give us access to the bidders so that we can try to convince them that this seemingly attractive proposition has two fundamental problems. One is that it won't do what it says on the tin and therefore you really ought not to go there. The other is that Napo and its members intend to be around a lot longer than you think we might be.
File on 4 gets stuck in
This week's brilliant Radio documentary by Danny Shaw did a real number on the walking disaster, otherwise known as the Transforming Rehabilitation agenda. File on 4 programme link
Thanks go out from Danny and Chivalry Road to all those Napo people who took part in the production.
The mealy mouthed and self-satisfying contribution to the programme from that well-known 'repeat offender' Chris Grayling, once again demonstrated how little he actually knows about what you do despite his untold visits to Trusts and the potential impact of what his 'rehab revolution' will actually mean for the communities you work with. Of course we expect no less from a politician who bases his whole approach to life on ideology and his (by now not even thinly veiled) personal ambition to eventually depose Cameron. But what is really galling is the fact that so many intelligent people within Noms and the Moj who have forged their reputations and careers in the public service can actually bring themselves to defend this recklessly flawed and highly dangerous social experiment. There are a few senior Trust leaders who have done their bit for the cause, but on the whole the establishment response has been at best supine, and typically downright pathetic.
Campaign will intensify
Fortunately nobody can say that about the Napo campaign which goes from strength to strength without having to repeatedly call on our members to take strike action. Our submission to the International Labour Organisation over the use of 'forced labour' by this Government has been waved away as 'silly' by the Secretary of State, but that won't put us off pursuing what is right. Likewise, we have not yet exhausted our legal options but the nature of public law applications means that it is a complex and expensive process. So before we launch into a judicial review application on the back of your money we need to be sure that we have maximised our prospects. See the Napo Campaign Bulletin for further details of planned parliamentary activities.
The next critical phase of our struggle comes in the form of the Invitation to Tender (ITN) which I referred to in the last posting and the continual public safety risk presented by TR. There is considerable mileage in flagging up these issues again to the public at a strategically opportune time and that's why planning is now well advanced for further industrial action, ideally in co-ordination with others.
As always, it won't come easy to make that call to you, but nobody said this would be anything other than a long and hard fight; one in which we would need to use occasional industrial action to maintain the profile of our campaign and what we believe in.
No to a Children Super Prison!
Spoke at an event at the House of Commons recently alongside Frances Crook of the Howard League, Peter McParland (POA) and Keith Mallinson (MIND), organised under the auspices of the 'Peoples Parliament'. This is an initiative started by our comrades John McDonnell and Elfyn Llwyd, which opens up unused committee rooms for a series of evening debates about issues that rarely get the debating time in Parliament that they ought to.
The subject matter of future prison reform provided a welcome opportunity to meet with members of the public to explain and debate the impact of current policies on wider society and the infrastructure that supports the prison and probation regimes, together with the threats posed by Government policies in respect of both.
What was especially encouraging was that the audience comprised a number of young people who in some cases were starting out on their political journey and who I hope came away knowing a lot more about the realities behind the continual 'get tough on crime and the causes of crime' rhetoric spouted by successive generations of politicians who have always sought the quick fix.
During the meeting Frances Crook announced the campaign that the Howard League were due to launch against the latest Grayling wheeze, a super prison for Children.
Can you help promote the petition against this positively dreadful idea by asking your friends to sign too? It's also very easy to share on Facebook I am told.
Here's the link:
'Cossack thuggery' speaks volumes about Putin's Regime
There is never a day that passes without some form of brutality featuring on our TV screens which usually invokes a feeling of utter despair and helplessness against the enormity of it all. Nor it seems, is there a country anywhere in the world that unfortunately doesn't have some kind of track record of human rights abuse.
In a week compounded by the terrible events in Kiev, the scenes from Sochi of young women being whipped, kicked and abused by a posse of Cossack 'hard boys' for having the temerity to stage a noisy but non-violent protest against their Government's own violations were of course outrageous. That not one male was willing to assist them against these gutless thugs who are not even an official agency of the state made my blood boil, but perhaps it was also the realisation that twenty years after the fall of the Soviet Union it is clear that totalitarian intolerance and blatant sexism are still alive and, as all the world can now see, still literally kicking. Putin and his merry men staked their reputation on the Winter Olympics, hoping they would present Russia's modern face. Yes we have noticed Vladimir.
The address of the Embassy of the Russian Federation is:
6/7 Kensington Palace Gardens, London, W8 4QP
Or try: Russian Embassy London
What the papers say
Whilst on the subject of bullying, a tip off from Sadiq Khan's political adviser alerted us to these stories that were run by the Guardian. One accuses Chris Grayling of completely ignoring conventional opinion as he seeks to steamroller his justice reforms through no matter what the cost or the collateral damage that may follow. But then you knew that already.
Guardian Article Chris Grayling
This followed the also unsurprising news this time from a MoJ 'whistle-blower', which exposed the deliberate strategy of Chris Grayling to block Sadiq's legitimate right to access information through parliamentary questions
Guardian Article - parliamentary questions
Kind of strikes another chord does it not?
Edited: 21/02/2014 at 02:58 PM by IanLawrence
Getting things in perspective
A 20 minute gap before a meeting of the Justice Unions Parliamentary Group gives one something to think of up here in the hermetically sealed waiting area in Portcullis House. Down below, there is the usual throng of Parliamentarians, interns and researchers and young students scurrying about looking for answers.
Such energy is hugely impressive but it's a constant refrain from many of the electorate, and those who just can't be bothered to vote for anyone, that this dynamic is all too often not found where it is most needed.
The sight of thousands of families in despair as they are engulfed by floods that might have at least been lessened dramatically (and maybe prevented) had sufficient money been invested in dredging riverbeds and sinking more boreholes, is all the more galling when one reads of a major debate that took place in one of the sanctums of an in-house Commons Committee recently.
The big issue? The quite outrageous idea that there should be a rise in the cost of a Commons cuppa. Good to see that this is being challenged at the highest levels and I am sure we wait with baited breath for the outcome.Were it not so seriously perverse it would almost be kind of humorous.
Fortunately it's not reflective of the tremendous work that many MP's undertake especially those who are helping the Napo cause.
The great CRC give away now underway
No matter what spin the MoJ are placing on it, all the information that has so far been shared with us does nothing to reassure me that the intended CRC share sale is anything but a cosy little arrangement between the MoJ and the would be contractors, who we understand have been invited to come in and set out what they want to see in the contracts.
Oddly enough I thought it was the purchaser of a service that determined the specification, but hey, why not just use more taxpayers money to smooth the path for the Sodhexo's, Carillion's, and Sentinels of this world who see nothing but profit as their prime motivation for showing an interest in the 'Rehabilitation Revolution.'
Serco London - Goodbye and good riddance
Last week's news contained in the small print of a Grayling statement to Parliament, announced that time has at last been called on the disastrous Serco London CP contract, (which Napo helped to expose last autumn on BBC Newsnight) and which we understand will revert back to CRC control by December this year. We will be offering our full support to London Napo Branch as we get ready to welcome Serco members back into the Probation service, but to coin a phrase from 'Probation speak': past performance is a good indicator of current behaviour, and those who think that TR is a really great idea (Messrs Wright and Grayling) might usefully remember that it took three years to let the London CP contract and even less time for the MoJ to eventually realise that they were sold a dud.
At last year's AGM we heard from John Whitefoot, the former Serco industrial relations chief, about the disgraceful bonuses (paid for by the taxpayer from the contract savings) that were handed out to some of their bid team executives when they secured London CP. Why are we supposed to believe that things have changed since then in terms of value for money and a transparent procurement process? Obviously we have made our views clear and demanded access to the prospective bidders, but I cannot see how we can believe a word of the latest utterances in last week's MoJ press release that tried to reassure the world that all of the potential probation contractors would be held to the highest standards of financial probity and demonstrate a proven ability to deliver rehabilitation services.
The privateers are probably having a quiet giggle and hoping that Grayling is so desperate to save face and walk into the next election with a 'success story' that the bid process will once again be nothing more than a sham.
Don't let them get away with it
That's why Napo has already started to undertake some due diligence of our own and commence some in depth research of all those commercial companies on the bidders list. It's why the Probation unions will also be writing to all of them to let them know that: we are here; we are watching and we won't be going away any time soon in the event that any of them are successful in buying contracts.
There are a number of things that we are starting to do in terms of ramping up the pressure on would be purchasers and publicly exposing this cesspit of political subterfuge.
Conflict of interest or what?
Jeremy Wrights optimistic (or was that arrogant) reply to a question at the recent PCA Conference that' there was no problem with the market' comes the news that CRC Chief Executives have been asked to become Chairs of their CRC Board of Governance!
My limited knowledge of company law aside, this surely smacks of a clear conflict of interest, and I gather that Napo are not the only organisation registering our disquiet at this notion.
Anyway, have to scoot up to London now to see the Lawyers, but more next week on a range of hot topics. Meanwhile, please keep reading the regular e-mails from Tom and myself as well as our Campaign bulletins and encourage others to do the same.
Edited: 14/02/2014 at 04:40 PM by IanLawrence
Members to lead the way
Firstly apologies for the unusual delay since my last blog post, partly due to a technical error at my end. Anyway normal service is now resumed and, together with the other regular communications issued to members provides further proof if it were needed that nobody at Chivalry Road is running out of steam.
The National Executive met yesterday to receive updates on a whole host of campaign and negotiating issues and to endorse the steps that the Officers are taking to invite members to consider some crucial constitutional proposals at a Special General Meeting to be held in Birmingham on 5th March. This will allow you to make key decisions to ensure that we continue to have a strong national leadership structure to help manage the union on your behalf but to also create the environment that will mean we have teams of branch reps in place within the NPS and CRC's so that we hit the floor running in terms of continuing to promote and protect your interests. There are options on the table and while we will be suggesting a preferred route forwards we will need our members to turn out and give us the direction that you are renowned for and which make us the envy of other unions in terms of internal democracy.
The framework agreement and the 'split'
Surprising how, after months of turmoil and drama in getting back to the table at the National Negotiating Council, the ratification of the National Agreement on Staff Transfer took all of 10 minutes at last week's meeting.
We will be issuing a detailed commentary on how we got to this stage and how we see the Agreement developing, but while I share the palpable disappointment that we have not been able to secure the same seven year protection of continuity of service for members who may want to transfer from a CRC to the NPS (which legislation has made impossible), we are now in the midst of the crucial 'Measures' negotiations. These are aimed at putting actual substance to the overarching principals that are contained in the National Agreement and we have left no doubt that we expect delivery of an alternative bargaining structure, proper professional training, union recognition and an interchange agreement that can afford some additional safeguards for members. This is why the unions qualified our acceptance at the NNC with a joint statement to that effect.
What this agreement does not do is sign Napo up to accepting the professional apartheid that has been shamefully imposed on the Probation workforce by Grayling. Napo does not, (and never will) accept the fact that the 'split' is anything other than a deliberate and perniciously disrespectful assault on your profession and integrity.
The reports we are receiving from around the country show that this exercise has been a farce of the highest order and that it has left the would be CRC's in a desperate position in terms of starting their journey with not enough staff or staff with the required skill sets to deliver the required services. We are urgently getting this news out to our key contacts inside and outside of Parliament.
The Unison position
The decision by our sister union to not go to an industrial action ballot is disappointing, but it will not impact on our willingness and ability to do what's right for our members in terms of stepping up action and thinking of new ways to enhance our campaign of continuing resistance. Meanwhile we will continue to find common ground and urge Unison to find another way to get back into the industrial scrap. Ultimately that's a decision for their members and their leadership.
Lies and even more damn lies
Over the last fortnight we have had to evaluate some amazing developments and revelations that show just how desperate this Government and its Ministers are to defend their TR con-trick.
There are many but these include: telling us that the Trust termination timetable was still set for 1st April just hours before the infamous climb down, telling their Lib-Dem partners that a TR pilot won't work because they have gone too far down the track, and that the 'new' NPS/CRC structures will be in a position to seamlessly transfer functions and cases from 1st April.
Essentially they must think that you are stupid, and that they believe that this approach will vindicate their strategy of trying to demoralise you. Be assured that I will be making it very clear that you are not and it won't.
More news to follow very soon as developments are moving with speed
Edited: 06/02/2014 at 08:26 AM by IanLawrence
THAT NEW YEAR MESSAGE TO PROBATION STAFF (OR WHAT CHRIS GRAYLING MEANT TO SAY).
Hello there, can I start by thanking all of you for carrying on doing the jobs you're doing and looking after and supervising offenders, before I do my darndest to sell many of you off somewhere in just a few months time. I know very well that these are difficult times in Probation as my policies have helped to create massive uncertainty.
What I wanted to do was give you a chance to hear a bit more about why we're doing this and what we're trying to achieve, and I promise not to let a few facts get in the way of a story.
First of all you have to understand the financial background against which we're working. Our austerity measures (remember we are all in this together) means that my Department is supposedly facing huge cuts to its budgets over the next few years and we're having to take really tough decisions in the level of staffing in prisons, in the level of Legal Aid we pay, in what we do within the courts and make big cuts to the Department's head office as well.
That said, it fortunately hasn't stopped me garnering a veritable army of nearly 200 staff at the MoJ, authorising shedloads of additional cash to Trusts in extra Honoraria payments and yes, overtime as well, as I seek to push my challenging changes through regardless.
You should also know, as I am sure you don't already, that I have also shelled out untold amounts of Taxpayers money on Ernst and Young Consultancy (since they can always be relied upon to tell me what I want to hear rather than those pesky Trusts that I am seeing off in a few weeks).
But we're treating Probation a little differently, and I've won a little battle with my mate George at the Treasury (during a poker session at the RAC club) to treat Probation differently. That's not to imply that I have any actual treats in store for you, you must understand, but if we're going to carry on bringing down the cost of the Criminal Justice system in future, we have got to improve our performance on tackling reoffending and someone has to pay for privatisation and that's you and the wider public.
Now I know that you have helped to contribute to the lowest reoffending figures since 2007, and if you look at crime in Britain today, the number of people entering the Criminal Justice System for the first time is coming down, with fewer crimes overall being committed. But as I said earlier, we don't have to mention the important fact that you don't get to see those clients serving sentences of less than 12 months so I have conveniently decided to ignore this when making my plans to decimate the one service with a proven track record in making a real difference.
But more and more of our crime problem is about people who are committing crimes again and again (no I don't mean my fellow Ministers), going round and round the system and what we're doing, rather than giving resources up front to tackle this which would bring real value for the taxpayer, is to close Trusts, split the core functions in two and eventually make people redundant to meet a tough budget settlement, so that I can weigh off the privateers who want to cream off the top. So what we're actually doing is spending more money on creating a bidders market to bring their still to be proven skills to supervise those people such as my mate Jeffrey once did, who go to jail for 12 months and less, who at the moment walk onto the streets with £46 in their pocket, get no supervision and are more like to reoffend than anyone else.
Now you know and I know that the rate of reoffending for those people who are not supervised post prison is much higher than for those people who are, and that is something we have got to change. So the obvious question is why not just do it within the current system?
Well there's a number of answers to that. To start off we have a system that is much too bureaucratic. I mean you all went into the Probation Service with this over inflated idea of spending more time working with offenders, and all of the evidence I see is that the processes that we have in place means that much too little time is spent working with offenders, and too much time just dealing with the systems. So what I want to do is to create a Probation system where the professionals working in the front line have got much greater freedom, don't have the interference of central bureaucracy and have got much greater freedom to innovate and do things completely differently. Well we can all dream cant we?
Unfortunately for you and your colleagues, we have no intention of addressing the underlying problems that are the root cause of all this, such as inadequate IT systems, under resourced training programmes and the centralist bureaucracy of Noms, so I intend to fragment the service and hope for the best that the new IT systems that will be introduced by the private sector will do the job, even though they won't be joined up so to speak.
Anyway, (and hoping you are all still awake out there?) we looked at whether that could be done across the current system of 35 trusts and actually the last government looked at whether we would provide supervision for the under 12 month group, using the current system. They, like us, came to the conclusion it wasn't affordable (despite the hundreds of £billions spent on managing reoffending that you keep telling us could be better invested) and that we would need to do things differently. I don't think we can afford to carry on with a situation where we're not supervising those 'under 12 month people' (I know you all prefer to call them 'clients'). And the other thing, what was it now? Oh yes, I don't think we can carry on with a situation where we don't have a proper, through-the-gate service. So that means I have decided to not include you in any transparent bidding process because the bottom line is that I need to make savings. There is absolutely no reason why several hundred 'Old Lags' can't help turn people's lives around and lead by example. I just need to find them from somewhere!
So let me explain to you briefly about the two new organisations.
The Community Rehabilitation Companies and the National Probation Service. The CRCs are going to have much greater freedom than has ever been the case before for front line professionals to do things completely differently, and they give a real opportunity to all of you to think about new ways of providing support to offenders. You will have to muddle through a bit between 1st April and share sale when the cavalry arrives, as I am a little short on detail right now about how this will actually look, but I am sure it will all be sorted with hopefully no risk to the public.
So for example, if I was running a CRC one of the first things I would do is set up a housing operation. I'd probably negotiate deals with landlords, so that you knew when somebody comes out of prison that you've got somewhere to place them like a 'third bedroom' or some such. Let's ignore for one minute the fact that many landlords won't touch social tenants with a bargepole and see them as bad for business let alone ex-offenders. For the truth is that Treasury rules just don't allow us to do that kind of thing in the public sector, but the CRCs will have that sort of freedom in the future and I think that can make a real difference and I think there'll be real opportunities to build on some of the things that the trusts do at the moment, for example in tying in with Welfare To Work Services and the success of my 'Work Plan' experiment.
And there is a really important point to make as well. I know there's been a lot of chatter around the system (that bloody pain in my a**e Napo has not stopped wittering on about - G4S and Serco, who as you know have decided that they are not going to be involved in the bidding process to take over CRCs) and yes, I know that you say I should not have even given them that option, but let's try and draw a line under their activities shall we? Instead we've got a list of partnerships very often between private sector organisations and voluntary sector organisations. Some of the biggest charities that work with offenders, coming together to hopefully take up the partnership role with the public sector that will exist in the new system. And I think there's a really exciting opportunity for people to build their careers, working with different organisations that offer not only the opportunity to do more within the CRCs, but also a wide variety of different and positively inferior terms and conditions giving them the opportunity to do more, for less, more broadly in future.
The world we're ultimately trying to create is one without you, where we have a partnership between public sector, voluntary sector and private sector: Private sector to help us run our systems and our processes and our organisation more efficiently as has been consistently shown in many outsourced IT and procurement contracts across many departments (according to my 'Spin Doctor).' The Voluntary sector will add mentoring skills to the work our Probation professionals already do once they find the people, and of course we will continue to use the risk management skills and expertise that already exist within the public sector, but you will just have to whisper to your colleagues in the NPS or CRC between yourselves when you need to.
And the other point to make, which I think is also very important, is the process of bringing in new partners is not going to be about price, we're not about selling the operation to the lowest bid. That is not what this is about. This is about improving quality, it's about innovation. So what we're going to be asking the people who bid to take on the CRCs to do, is to demonstrate to us that they're giving us the best value in terms of improved reoffending outcomes, for the work that we're doing with them and for the money that we're paying. *Unfortunately, as you all now know since I made the DVD, not as many bidders as as I thought would do so made the first cut so I may have to review that statement as we go along.
And then there's the National Probation Service, which is going to have a very different focus to the CRCs. Looking after the most challenging offenders, working on a multi-agency basis to supervise people who are a real risk to our society (unlike the 25% of low and medium risk offenders who move across tiers over the course of the year), and having responsibility for risk assessment, for allocation of offenders to different risk categories, for decisions about recalling people to court and I think increasingly operating in new areas as well. Unfortunately, I am not able to substantiate the risk factors behind all of this as I am not prepared to release the risk registers previously prepared by my department.
I'm for example very keen to see the National Probation Service much more involved in decisions about release on Temporary Licence, so that we've got real expertise in taking decisions in an area where we've had problems in the last few months. So let me tell you a bit about the process going forward. We've already got the new leadership teams of the two organisations in place, and we're moving quickly to shove people into their new teams despite not having much in the way of facts (told you that earlier) as I don't want there to be a longer period of uncertainty, no honestly, I don't. But then after that there is going to be a long period of bedding in, in the public sector, making sure all the new systems are working such as being able to pay you on time. We're not rushing to move problematic cases from one part of the future to another as we don't yet have a clue about how can do this safely, so mark my words we're not going to take risks with public safety. We'll take most of this year to continue bedding in the new systems, long before we ever actually involve any of the new partners who are going to be coming in and working with us.
Now I know that all of this is disruptive and unsettling, and there are of course going to be changes so you will just have to get on with it. We are inevitably going to be merging back office operations, we'll be simplifying systems and there's no doubt there'll be some changes in the organisation as a whole and I'm pleased to say we've now reached agreement with the unions on the transition arrangements, on the voluntary redundancy package, on issues around continuity of service, and I think there's now a really good package for everyone that I hope will give you greater confidence going forward. There are small issues such as new collective bargaining arrangements, interchange agreements and recognition that could still make the whole thing go south but let's be positive shall we?
So (finally) what does the future look like? Well my vision is of a network of CRCs, working in the resettlement prisons, preparing people for release, meeting them at the gate, mentoring and supporting them for 12 months after they leave prison, with a particular focus on that new group of people who will be supervising the under 12 month people, really bringing down reoffending rates and doing it in new ways, finding innovative ideas to help them get their lives back together. Sadly, as the years go by and even supposing that this will work, that won't involve many of you whether you soon find yourself in the NPS or a CRC.
Thank you and HNY
SOME YEAR THAT WAS
I am doubtful whether there has been a more action packed year in Napo's proud history but if so I stand to be corrected. Nevertheless, as we approach the end of 2013 we do so on a high note in terms of our campaign against Transforming Rehabilitation.
Putting aside the last 12 months for a moment, let's just reflect on where we were this time last week, as the Napo negotiating team left the offices of the conciliation service ACAS after nearly 8 hours of some very difficult contemplations for the three unions and late talks with the PA and MoJ that were anything other than full of festive cheer. The possibility of us entering the winter holiday in good spirits was as fanciful as a visit from Santa Claus in daylight hours.
By the end of the day we had insisted on being granted an urgent audience with Chris Grayling, which we were repeatedly told was going to be a waste of time, as the best offer from the employers on a Staff Transfer agreement had to be signed on the dotted line there and then.
Fortunately, we decided not to blink first in the face of such a provocative ultimatum, reckoning that for there to be any chance of this wretchedly misconceived programme actually being implemented then the Secretary of State needed an orderly agreement. More importantly for us, we owed it to our members to secure all the protection that we could against the impact of privatisation if it comes to it.
As things turned out we saw Jeremy Wright last Thursday and in what was a short and sharp but ultimately constructive exchange, we walked away with an improved offer from the one that we had faced just a few days before. The extension of protected continuity of service from 9 months to seven years represents a climb down of major proportions in any analysis, and one that will be written into the commercial contracts that will be offered to bidders (more on them below).
That, among other reasons, is why Napo and Unison are putting the recommendation to accept the framework agreement to our respective Negotiating Committees. We will be issuing a detailed commentary on what it will mean to you if the National Negotiating Council give it the seal of approval, but meanwhile I want to thank all those involved in helping us to get this far. That includes Peter Heywood and John Woods from ACAS, Mark Ormerod, Norma Beechey and Malcolm Fearn from the PA and, at great risk to my grossly unfair reputation as an uncompromising attack dog, Amy Rees and Iain McIntosh from the MoJ, and yes while I am at it, the two Ministers for at last seeing some light amidst the gloom that they have helped to create.
That said, all should of course be assured that Napo will be re-engaging in vigorous hostilities over the TR programme in 2014 come what may; and that the lifting of local JNC disputes makes not one jot of difference to our industrial action mandate, the ongoing action short of strike action, the myriad grievances submitted by members and the ferocious political campaign which we are waging.
Famous names come a cropper
The breakthrough on the staff transfer agreement was welcome but the announcement by Chris Grayling in the same week that G4S and Serco had decided not to take part in the bidding process for the intended probation sell off, reminded me of the adage that one can wait ages for a bus to then see two of them arrive in tandem.
The SoS's statement to Parliament makes it crystal clear that following investigations these companies are seriously under manners for tagging the dead and not delivering prisoners to the right place or at the right time, or hey - even at all.
That we now have a very short, short list, of prospective purchasers who from what I can see know even less about probation than these people, speaks volumes about the farce that has been engineered. It's not even two bidders per CRC which aside from the issue of whether the privateers are fit for purpose or not, raises a serious question or two about the 'competitive' process.
We will now adjust our approach accordingly as we take our reasoned arguments and briefings to the increasing number of influential politicians who are indicating their misgivings about this 'rehab revolution' which, interestingly, is now being described as an 'evolution' by its beleaguered architect.
Two big cheeses down then but no time to get complacent; there is still all to play for.
2013 a year of achievement
We have certainly crammed a lot in these past 12 months and as we use the winter holiday to 'recharge the batteries', we can afford to congratulate ourselves on our capacity to have stuck together in hard times. This includes the willingness to take strike action in defence of your jobs and futures and to launch a political and media campaign against the madness of privatisation that has resonated well beyond the expectations that a union of our size might reasonably have. Make no mistake, you have helped put probation on the map more than ever before and we have also orchestrated a House of Lords defeat for the government on its flawed Offender Rehabilitation Bill and are not done with that either.
We have rebuilt the Napo team infrastructure and have a new General Secretary, Assistant General Secretary and a Press and Campaigns Official and your Officers and the Chivalry Road team have, just like you have, been working flat out at a time of great uncertainty.
Take heart from where we are and what we have collectively achieved, and enjoy a great holiday alongside those whom you care most about.
Edited: 24/12/2013 at 07:46 AM by IanLawrence
The blame game intensifies
Napo people are a reasonable bunch; not the sort of folk who seek confrontation or play awkward for the sake of it. For starters you are way too intelligent and very well trained in dealing with difficult clients.
Unfortunately, and as I have said before, the struggle in which we are engaged over the Transforming Rehabilitation 'revolution' is not one of our choosing. For the way in which the Ministry of Justice (or ought that to be the Ministry of disinformation) are trying to implement the split of the workforce in preparation for the great probation sell off speaks volumes about the chaos that has been evident right from the get-go of this wretched example of flawed ideology. Its enough to make anyone livid.
Regrettably the Secretary of State is not a person who lets a few facts get in the way of a good story, and Mr Grayling's latest performance alongside sidekick Jeremy Wright, at today's Justice Select Committee (JSC) had all the style of those fabled 'snake oil' salesman that touted their wares during the heyday of the Wild West. Reports from the time suggest that the expensive potions that were claimed to be the cure for everything not only had a hideous taste but failed to produce the much hyped results.
The analogy is not so far off the mark when considering the way in which the Secretary of State told the Committee members that his project was not risking public money; had already shown through the HMP Peterborough reoffending pilot that engagement with short term offenders worked, and that the current staff assignment process would provide certainty to staff. If these were not enough to make you want to put your fist through the computer screen or worse; then the bare faced lie that it was the unions who are responsible for blocking the Voluntary Redundancy scheme and the claim to not understanding why the NNC talks on 20th November had failed to reach agreement were quite astonishing.
Here is what I had written into the minutes of the TR Consultation Forum the day after that fateful NNC meeting:
"As members of the Programme Team and TRCF will be aware, Napo, Unison and GMB* yesterday (20/11/13) registered a failure to agree following a meeting of the National Negotiating Council (NNC) in London last night. The unions will now be approaching The Advisory and Conciliation Service (ACAS) for assistance.
Napo wishes to formally complain at what we believe was a cynical attempt to de-stabilise the NNC negotiating process yesterday, and to make it clear that we found the contribution from the Secretary of State's representative to be extremely unhelpful and indeed unnecessary. This intervention follows the previous act of bad faith last week where contradictory documentation was distributed to Trusts outwith the NNC negotiating machinery. It is also Napo's view that to compound this situation by presenting the employers and unions with a series of eleventh-hour and highly detrimental pre-conditions, which reneged on previously agreed assurances, was a total disgrace.
These actions prevented any discussion on the substantive material and have severely jeopardised the prospect of the NNC parties reaching an agreement on a comprehensive Staff Transfer Agreement, and Napo has no hesitation in laying the responsibility for this situation firmly at the door of the Secretary of State. As you may be aware, Napo has instructed our Branches to prepare to register local JNC disputes in the event that the Moj version of a staff assignment process is implemented by Trusts. Napo's National Executive Committee meets next week to consider the situation and to receive reports about the next steps in the Union's current Industrial Action Campaign."
(*GMB clarified that they had reserved their position on a failure to agree)
The key point is that even if Grayling did not agree that his department was at fault for the breakdown in talks he cannot reasonably claim before his peers that he was unaware of why the situation had occurred.
More news about the JSC hearing will follow, but meanwhile all of you who are trying to do your day job in the midst of the stress and confusion caused by the staff assignment debacle will no doubt be consoled by one of the other inflammatory contributions this morning from the SoS. In essence he said that: 'the split is just about organising staff into two teams!' The subsequent attempt to explain this suggested that if (as Grayling said was highly likely) that case migration has not happened by 1st April, then it is entirely possible that clients may stay with the Offender Manager that currently runs their case irrespective of whether they are in the NPS or a CRC.
Well there you have it then, and surely even more reason to get those grievances in, just in case you are still wondering why it is so necessary.
Thanks to our friends
Now is an opportune time to publicly thank MP's John McDonnell, Jeremy Corbyn and Elfyn Clwyd for their continuing efforts and support for Napo and its members. Their commitment to our cause is an inspiration.
WHO SAYS WE ARE NOT MAKING A DIFFERENCE?
As we start a week in which the desperate Coalition seek to push their Offender Rehabilitation Bill (ORB) through the Commons Committee in an unprecedented two days, it's worth reflecting on a variety of events that took place last week which are a result of, or have a direct bearing on, the Napo campaign against TR.
Last Monday the Tory dominated Human Rights Committee had some strongly critical words about the implications of the Governments proposals in regards to the disproportionate sentencing regime as outlined in the Bill and the strong likelihood that it will lead to more breaches rather than less.
On the same day we received reliable intelligence that Napo's efforts to target the Libdem leadership may be starting to bear fruit with separate reports that Deputy Leader Simon Hughes has asked to see his leader Nick Clegg to express severe reservations about TR generally; and that Clegg himself, during his latest meeting with the tenacious Napo South Yorkshire reps has for the first time conceded that this TR concoction may not actually do what it says on the tin.
Tuesday revealed the (almost comical if it were not so serious) fact that G4s had graciously decided to offer a £24.1 'credit note' in reparation for overcharging the taxpayer in the 'tagging the dead' electronic monitoring scandal. That even the beleaguered Chris Grayling could not find it in himself to accept this patronising offer speaks volumes about the yet to be revealed true extent of the scam, which NAO sources are said to have put at more than three times that amount.
Wednesday was fully taken up by what were supposed to be substantive negotiations between the National Negotiating Council (NNC) and the Probation Unions to try and tie down a final framework staffing agreement which would have subsumed the recent concessions offered by Michael Spurr. It was felt that even the MoJ had surpassed itself in standards of ineptitude when it decided to publish the contradictory and quite unnecessary instructions to 'get on' with the staff split the week before; but the performance of their emissary to the NNC represented something of a gold standard in terms of grand-guignol farce.
Conventional wisdom over these testing last few months has been that when it comes to the litany of errors emanating from the MoJ it's all about confusion rather than conspiracy (not quite how I would like to put it but this is a family publication) but now I wonder as you will see below.
Heaving ourselves towards the long journey home at around 7:00pm without an agreement was a pretty miserable experience but at least it brought the three unions closer than before and the subsequent news that Unison are heading towards a trade dispute will be music to many members ears.
'Newsnight' hits the spot
Thursday evening and the long awaited expose of the shambolic London Serco CP contract was there for millions to see. The combined hard work of a number of people -who know who they are- helped to ensure that National Chair Tom Rendon gave a very articulate performance on behalf of Napo, in a programme which also featured West Yorkshire Probation Chief Sue Hall who hit the right notes and a guy from some policy exchange who tried to defend the Government's privatisation agenda but simply did not know what he was talking about. No change there then?
The week for me was then rounded off on Friday with the news that Grayling had abandoned the competition for three Prisons in South Yorkshire where yes, Serco were prime bidders, and signalled their reversion to public sector control.
Who says we are not making a difference?
Local JNC Disputes, someone's bothered
As I write it has become clear that the MoJ are rather unsportingly claiming that Napo and Unison are unable to enter local JNC disputes as there is no need for the MoJ to negotiate with Trade Unions on the imposed staff transfer assignment process.
We will issue more advice tomorrow but this blatant attack on our rights to represent our members is desperate even by the MoJ's latest standards. It won't intimidate our members and it's simply likely to add fuel to the fire.
Who says we are not making a difference?
Huge decision beckons
Our superbly determined, and highly effective campaign against the combined might of the Coalition Government and Chris Graylings' army of Civil Servants as they go about their mission to fragment and destroy the Probation Service, has to be the most exciting, as well as the biggest challenge that I have faced in my career.
The courageous stand that Napo members have taken in supporting their union and the sacrifice made over 5/6 November has directly helped us to secure recent significant concessions on the proposed staff transfer agreement that has been the subject of hundreds of hours of often tortuous negotiations. This proves that our decision to enter into an industrial dispute was not only bold but the right thing to do. We are still awaiting Unison's verdict on the above agreement and whether they will move to join us in dispute over the wretched TR agenda. Meanwhile I urge your support for our action short of strike action which we launched last week.
This week your elected representatives from Napo's Probation Negotiating Committee and your National Officers and Officials will need to decide whether the offer from the MoJ that will underpin the intended staffing restructure, affords our members the maximum protection possible against compulsory redundancy, continuity of service in the event of future interchange transfers, guarantees of future membership of the Local Government Pension Scheme and provides a worthwhile voluntary redundancy scheme. We have continued to negotiate in order to protect members from the worst that the owners of the proposed CRC's will throw at them be they private, third sector or a mutual, when they no longer need you.
Wednesdays meeting of the National Negotiating Council (NNC) will reveal the decisions of the three unions as to the offer and will define the next steps in terms of whether there is a consensus or a situation that will result in Grayling carrying out his threat to do something even sillier than anything he has managed so far.
Unfortunately at the time of writing we are still trying to understand exactly what it is we are being asked to agree to, as yet again the MoJ have sought to interfere in the negotiations and have issued instructions to Trusts which are at some variance with the position that we reached with the NNC last week. A testing few days is guaranteed.
He still doesn't get it!
I often ask myself how Chris Grayling, who has already been tainted by the spectacularly unsuccessful and equally inappropriately named 'work'' programme (because it didn't work and not too many of those on it did so either) can be so surprised and smitten by the fact that we are so hacked of with his much vaunted 'Rehab Revolution' which, under his version, is more likely to see more people return to Prison.
If he and Jeremy Wright would take a break from destroying another gold standard public service, then they might start considering what they will do when their master plan comes a cropper because of the ridiculous timetable or because Serco and G4s get barred from competing for the CRC (Ok, I'm getting ahead of myself) or the companies themselves have concluded, as we hear other players have, that the market is a busted flush already.
This is why we are stepping up the pressure in and outside of Parliament and with academics to convince politicians that we have the solution to reduce reoffending rates from the under-12 month custodial community.
Those who believe that an agreement on the staff transfer scheme (if that becomes possible) will somehow signal an end to our industrial dispute, should think again. Our cause is just; our arguments impeccable, and our resolve to consign this disgraceful and cynical TR con-trick is altogether greater than the ideologues standing against us.
PAC to turn up the heat on Serco and G4S
Great news this weekend as we hear that the two privateers are being summoned to appear before the Public accounts Committee who I am told are straining at the leash at the prospect. Let's hope that by the time they arrive at this very unwelcoming party, their share prices have dipped even further than they have over the last few days.
STANDING UP FOR OUR COMMUNITIES AND FOR YOURSELF
Today sees the launch of our industrial action campaign against this Governments TR plans.
Our Probation members across England and Wales are being asked for only the 4th time ever to take strike action. This comes after every effort by your Union to persuade Ministers that their plans to deal with re-offending rates are fundamentally flawed and operationally dangerous, and after pleading with the same Ministers to retain what currently works within Probation, and at least trial their scheme in a structured and measurable way.
Their predictable response is that they can no longer delay implementation because the issue needs to be tackled now, and that TR is necessary because (as stated by Jeremy Wright on Radio 5 yesterday), 'it makes common sense'. If this were all about common sense then the likes of G4S and Serco would have been ruled out of any involvement in the contract bidding process. They have already shown by 'tagging the dead' and lying about prisoner transportation, that they are unfit to be trusted with Taxpayers money.
If common sense was being applied anywhere then Chris Grayling and Jeremy Wright would have found a way to ensure that Probation was involved in the management of the under-12 month custodial community straight away, alongside additional providers that we and the public could have confidence in. We would also have a Payment by Results (PbR) mechanism which will not subsidise would be providers for failure while still receiving fees for service. A 'Rehabilitation Revolution' sold to the British public as a scheme based on real evidence, instead of a farrago of inconclusive statistics from two prison pilots that cannot be compared with what could be achieved with the right offender intervention strategies that you know that you can offer.
But common sense is not what this is all about. It's about political vanity and free market ideology and the fragmentation of a service that has proved over 100 years that it has the professional expertise, the commitment and the appropriate values to make a real difference to peoples lives.
The price of being divided
Napo is a responsible member led union which does not take industrial action lightly. The Government have called our action unnecessary (as if they have been serious about negotiations), but who have shown by the chaos of the so called consultation period that they have been anything but.
A Government whose flawed and reckless policies are being shored up by a Liberal Party who lost any semblance of respectability a long, long, time ago and whose Leader has signed of TR without a clue as to its consequences.
These, and a whole range of other reasons are why Napo is asking you to stand strong today and tomorrow and thereafter. For now is the time to show unity and common purpose, but to also demonstrate to the public that you care about what happens to them as well as you.
This is the biggest test in Napo's proud history; I know that you will face it with courage and resolve.
Edited: 05/11/2013 at 06:35 AM by IanLawrence
Getting ready for AGM
If last years Conference was a piece of history then the events that will unfold in Wales later this week will be pivotal to our future and the career paths of our members in Probation. We have an array of interesting speakers and fringe events and I know there will be a strong feeling of collectivism as we face our strongest ever test.
For those who are heading off to AGM I wish you a productive conference and for those members unable to join us this year, I would urge you to log in to the AGM blog which will be administered by our newly appointed Assistant General Secretary Dean Richards who we welcomed to Chivalry Road last week. Dean is looking forward to his first AGM
Drama at NOMS
There is never a dull moment in this job I can assure you. For near the end of another busy day at the office yesterday which included a meeting with TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady to discuss the situation around Transforming Rehabilitation, I emerged to see that Mike Maiden had tendered his resignation as Director of Probation for what have been reported as 'personal reasons'.
If these are truly private then its not for us to ask why; but the news has been released not long after a certain Mark Reid (NOMS Prison Service) was put into the TR transition team. Probably just a coincidence I am told, or there again maybe it isn't?.
Ballot result beckons
Just in case anyone reading this has forgotten or not yet decided whether to vote in the Industrial Action Ballot then it is not too late. So have a look through your piles of unopened envelopes and fill it in now please! We are asking you to vote 'YES' and 'YES' to both questions. It's a pretty crucial issue and every vote counts.
The post-AGM blog will appear next week.
Party Conference season
Anyone in any doubt as to how hard Napo is working on our campaign against TR might want to know that we have provided speakers at all the mainstream party conference fringe events as well as the TUC, and anywhere else who wants to hear from us about why we believe the Government has got it all wrong.
Many of the speeches at events such as that sponsored by New Statesman and other organisations linked to the mainstream political parties have been captured on video and will be posted on the Napo website and Napo News online.
Last week we were at the Labour Conference where we again put the heat on our friend Sadiq Khan about where Labour stand on the probation sell-off and, as importantly, what they will do if they manage to form a future Government.
In fairness to Sadiq and his front bench colleagues, Labour has been really supportive to our cause over the last six months and is saying the right things. All except that is for the to the one key question that Napo members and the electorate are waiting to hear: which is what are they going to do with outsourcing contracts that are signed before the next election after bidding processes that are corrupt, with contractors who may have been proven to be corrupt?
For if a multi-billion pound project like HS2 can be threatened with the axe by a would be Labour administration on grounds of cost, despite the taxpayer already having shelled out millions on pre-contract activity, then revoking the 21 CRC contracts in Probation after they have been enacted would, by comparison with what HS2 cancellation would cost, be a drop in the ocean.
The same old Tories?
Last Tuesday night it was the turn of the Tories to hear what we had to say, and while we would have just loved the chance to be invited to speak at their main conference, we all know that wasn't going to happen. That's why we went in search of another audience but not of the type that I hear gave UKIP's Nigel Farage a standing ovation for his Eurosceptic (or was that septic?) contribution the other evening.
Ironically one of the keynote speakers on show at the fringe was one Crispin Blunt; yes, he who received staged ovations at Napo AGM some years ago, but whose stance on the ridiculous TR timetable and flawed payment by results model makes him about the nearest thing there is to a Conservative Party 'gamekeeper turned poacher' .
Not that he is (or ever was) opposed to competition of course, but he agreed that the bundling of Trusts into bigger areas is a mistake, and that the newly elected Police and Crime Commissioners should have been involved in the restructuring planning. He agreed that it was just plain wrong that staff have been barred from the TR bidding process and he spoke with enthusiasm about the success of Probation and the many partnerships that currently exist. He also suggested that Grayling ought to be building on 'what works', and clearly felt that the whole process should be slowed down and piloted.
Crispin is a different type of Tory to those who edged him out of Ministerial office, and while chatting to him afterwards I was appalled to learn that he now faces an uphill struggle with his local constituency Grandees who are putting obstacles in his way to reselection. Whilst it is fair game to say: 'that's life' in politics, it was pretty clear that the threat to his parliamentary longevity has nothing to do with his track record but all to do with covert Homophobia. Though it's likely you will only hear from his opponents that they have concerns over his principled stance (as an ex-military man) against his leader's attempts to persuade Parliament to blitz Syria with Cruise Missiles.
So much one might reasonably ask, for Cameron's new, enlightened, Tory party.
Napo have not quite finished our party conference visits which we undertook in partnership with New Statesman and the POA, and we look forward to rounding things off with an independent trip to Plaid Cymru in Aberystwyth on 12th October.
It's time to say 'NO' by saying 'YES'
Ballot material will be hitting your post boxes from tomorrow morning so I have no need to rehearse the plea that is contained in the statement urging you to take part and why it is vital that you do so. All I will add at this stage is that Napo would never ask you to take action of this kind unless we saw it as the only chance of defeating such a serious threat to your jobs and careers as the one that confronts you now.
Please vote 'YES' to both questions and ensure that you encourage your workplace Napo colleagues to do the same. A low turnout will be a massive boost for Grayling and company and I cannot believe that you want that to happen.
Getting Napo out there
Allied to the showpiece speeches and our general campaigning activity (see also final details of next Wednesdays Parliamentary rally in the latest Campaign Bulletin) has been a commensurate rise in our national media presence as well. Napo has secured a pretty healthy number of recent interviews involving myself, or Tania Bassett and Tom Rendon where we have appeared on: Sky Radio, Radio 5 Live, Radio 4, Radio Wales, Radio Warwickshire and LBC. You may also have spotted us on live TV slots including: ITN, BBC News, BBC Breakfast, Sky News and the Daily Politics show plus the odd clip of pre-recorded material.
Everyone wants to see us in the press and media every day and that's just not realistic. That said our success rate as shown above and the weekly compilation of media alerts secured by us nationally (and added to regionally by the hard work of many local Napo reps) knocks spots off any other union you can mention.
We are getting our message out there but we cannot do it all from the centre, and we will all need to pull together as we approach what is the critical stage in our campaign against privatisation.
If every member tries to engage with a non- member about joining Napo and/or volunteers to do some leafleting in your local community then you will be making a major contribution to our campaign in defence of public safety, your job and the future of Probation.
Keep up the struggle for believe me, we have lots still to play for.
TUC Blog Bournemouth 2013 and a lot more besides
I am sitting in Broadcasting House the morning after the close of TUC.
With an hour between the next Radio and TV interviews it's a good opportunity to work on this posting. More later about the blame game that the MoJ are playing following the Inspectorates joint report about 'Lifer Assessments.'
When I was a good deal younger the Trades Union Congress was a major political event, right up there with the political party conferences containing the requisite and welcome elements of high dudgeon, drama and controversy. I also remember when smoking used to be allowed in Congress together with the Neanderthal practice of wolf whistling at female delegates, but fortunately these are traditions no longer missed.
These days the TUC attracts nowhere like the attention of yesteryear, and when it does it's usually because the media have been winding themselves up for their annual fix of union bashing or a continuation of their usual pastime of 'bear baiting' the Labour Party leader.
As for Ed's contribution this week, well he at least managed to avoid the embarrassment of being booed off stage by the Comrades; and his pitch to the unions on his plans to enlarge the independent membership base of his party sounded altogether more conciliatory than the version which had been rehearsed just days previously.
But it's what he didn't say that perplexed me; especially as a major theme of the TUC was the systemic attack on the public sector by this Government, and their fanatical charge to privatise anything that moves, no matter what the collateral damage.
As I said during my address to The National Shop Stewards Network Rally last Sunday, (links to TUC speeches will appear on the Napo website) people out there need to know what a future Labour Government stands for, as well as what they stand against. It's time for the opposition front bench to get a grip of where they want to be and what they are going to do to stem the disgraceful, wasteful and downright criminal policies of this government that thinks it should sell off our heritage and do nothing to help the millions of unemployed, because it's ok - Osborne has fixed the economy!.
Napo did brilliantly at the TUC with an excellent contribution from Tom Rendon moving a motion against Legal Aid cuts, before I seconded a motion with the POA against Prison and Probation privatisation, and a speech at the Trade Union Co-ordinating Fringe by Tania Bassett on Tuesday evening that brought the house down.
In our case there cannot be a Napo member anywhere who isn't deeply worried about where the privatisation shambles is going to leave them. And forget any notion that there is a safe place called the new National Probation Service awaiting the (in Jeremy Wrights patronising and inappropriate words) 'top Offender Managers'. For our discussions with the MoJ suggest that 'purgatory' rather than 'heaven' would be a more apposite description of the planned haven. A world where de-skilling and number crunching will be the order of the day, and never mind the quality.
But before we get to that scenario, the small matter of a national dispute now looms large with Industrial Action a 'racing certainty', as I reported to Congress in the TUC debate on Probation and Prison privatisation.
All out for Lunch on 19th September
Next week is a huge one for the Napo campaign (Campaign Bulletins, Weekly updates and latest BR memos to bring you up to speed with what's going on) We expect that Chris Grayling will signal the great probation sell off and that's why we are asking Napo members to show their anger by way of lunchtime demonstrations that day. It's not a strike but it represents an opportunity to mark this highly provocative move by the Secretary of State to push on with his agenda despite failing to provide the workforce with guarantees about their pensions, security of employment and terms and conditions and before the small matter of two more at least Parliamentary debates about his shambolic plans.
All this will be debated by your National Executive Committee on Tuesday, the day before the unions meet with the National Negotiating Council after which it is intended that there will be a so called 'consultative period' where staff and unions will be invited to volunteer to meet with Trust management.
Chaos not of our making
Our formal response will be given to the NNC next week and there simply isn't room here to tell you the full story of the negotiations that we have been engaged in and the memo to all members that I issued yesterday and which reflects the efforts of your negotiators, gives you a flavour of the difficulties we have faced. All I would add here is that in all my 40 years of experience of these types of scenarios the way in which Chris Grayling has ridden roughshod over the negotiating process is nothing short of a disgrace and represents a serious act of bad faith.
You will soon see what our response is and why we need to ask you to step up to the next logical level.
The media thing
Finally, back to the studios, where I have just finished two live BBC TV interviews and three live radio slots (with John Humphries, Nicky Campbell and BBC Warwickshire) about the MoJ's attempts to discredit our members on the back of the conclusions of the joint inspectors of Prison and Probation on the risk assessments of Life Prisoners prior to their release. Feedback from members about the way in which I responded and my expose of the how the TR agenda will increase the risk to public safety, has been really appreciated and highly encouraging, and the incoming twitter feeds are going viral.
Our media campaigning is developing in a big way as we start to cultivate our growing list of contacts and pre-empt headline stories as soon as we get the chance. Our new website is released for testing next week and this will allow us to establish improved links to all our media and social media activity, but we will need members to be encouraged to visit it and get interactive once it goes live.
This needs to be supplemented by members and Branch activists maintaining contact with their local media and getting stories out there to communities using the masses of material that we have provided.
I have seen a couple of e-mails coming in to Chivalry Road complaining about Napo not being in the national news every day. It's a great notion but sorry, it does not reflect the real world or fact that every day we are up against a host of other competing stories.
Since May the 9th we have exploited a whole number of national media opportunities on press radio and TV, but just because you don't happen to see us when we are on, it does not mean that it has not happened!
Working flat out
Finally, and because I think it's worth saying just before we ramp up our response to the Government over TR and enter what will be an extremely hostile and testing environment. I want to make it clear that my National Officials and the Chivalry Road team are putting in a huge shift in defence of our members interests, often well over and above the normal call of duty. I am pleased to have them working with me, I am proud of their efforts and I have absolute faith in their ability.
Brighton rallies to the cause
I was really delighted to speak at last week's "The Probation Service: Public Safety or Private Profit?" rally in Brighton. Many thanks for the hard work that Mike Rayfield and his Surrey and Sussex Napo team put into organising this with support from Unison activists.
A very well attended public meeting (just like the old days) heard an expert contribution from Academia in the form of Professor Paul Senior, and a tremendously supportive speech from local campaigner Caroline Lucas MP, who after doing her bit for us was heroically arrested whilst engaging in peaceful protest against the 'Fracketeers' in Sussex. We also heard from Maureen Le Marinel, Unison President for their Police and Justice Section, who gave a well appreciated and encouraging message of solidarity about joint industrial action alongside Napo and other unions in the Justice sector.
No prizes for guessing who I had in my sights that evening? Well yes obviously Mr Grayling, but also those would be Privateers whose record on other Government contracts (see earlier 'tagging the dead' references) clearly demonstrates that they are unfit for purpose. Since then, we have heard a public warning from the Justice Secretary about G4S and Serco needing to invest in some 'corporate restructuring' if they want to do future business with Government. This might mean that the increasing rumours about the big two having already been ruled out of the great Probation sell off have some resonance; but the announcement made no impact on their respective company share prices that afternoon, unlike the plummet that followed Napo's media activity on the day they were put under investigation for alleged overcharging.
Anyway, the energy and enthusiasm generated at Brighton can be seen on these u tube links:
Professor Paul Senior
Dr Caroline Lucas MP Brighton Pavilion
Maureen Le Marinel, President UNISON
Ian Lawrence, General Secretary Napo
Questions and answers
The proceedings certainly sent me home with an extra spring in my step, in that many members of the public who had pitched up in curiosity, were all telling me afterwards that they thought the sell-off is downright dangerous. In terms of our subsequent dealings with the TR programme team it is abundantly clear that this whole 'Omni shambles' is panning out just as we predicted it would many months ago, with nearly all the deadlines in Graylings timetable either not being met, or pushed through in sheer desperation by his army of Civil Servants. Sources within tell me that there is an increasing air of desperation in the MoJ that not only do Ministers not know what they are doing, but even more worryingly they are not even listening to the people they have employed who do.
It's the job of any responsible Trade Union to promote and protect the interests of its members in all eventualities, and everyone knows that despite the progress of our campaign and the prospect of industrial action, Napo must prepare for the grim prospect that Graylings 'grand guignol' farce might get onto the statute books and be implemented by the next election.
If it does then our members won't thank us for not having done all in our power to have tried to secure the best possible arrangements for those who may want to leave and those who have to remain. That's why your negotiating team of Tom Rendon, Mike McClelland and myself have been heavily engaged (it seems like forever) in discussions with the MoJ, Ministers and the NNC to try and secure a framework agreement that guarantees the protections that we know you would want to see in place.
There is not room here to give you a full account of the progress to date and that's why we are calling in your elected representatives in the form of the NEC and PNC (Probation Negotiating Committee) on the 2nd September to have an initial look at what we have achieved. This will allow them to consult with our members between then and the normal NEC on 17th September, after which the NNC will hear if we have a deal or not.
Indicative Ballot speaks volumes
As oft stated, none of the above activity will impact on our on-going campaign against TR which, as you will see from our regular Napo Campaign Bulletins and weekly updates from National Chair Tom Rendon and myself, is due to intensify significantly between now and the AGM.
This follows the highly encouraging indicative ballot results from Napo and Unison where it is clear that there is overwhelming support amongst our respective memberships about embarking on Industrial Action. I never doubted this, (and word is that the outcome - without us telling Ministers what the healthy turnout was, has ruffled some feathers) but it's important in any campaign of this nature to feel the pulse and examine where our messages are getting through more strongly to some members than others, and for us to take steps to address the gaps.
That's one of the reasons why we are planning widespread consultation with members through September so that we can bring you up to speed with what's happening in the campaign and the various considerations that we are grappling with whilst building up the coalition of other unions who want to take part in co-ordinated action.
I acknowledge that some members want a ballot now, but we will only get one shot at this and we need to make sure that we are in the right tactical place before pressing the buttons.
I remember that my first AGM when joining the Napo fold was held in Llandudno. That delightful venue beckons again for this year's gathering 17-19th October. This will be a pivotal event for our Union and I hope that we get the attendance that we need to send out some strong messages of intent as well as resistance against those who oppose what we are about.
We are fast approaching the final week of the current election round for National Chair, National Treasurer and National Vice-Chair.
Whoever you decide is best placed to represent you at the highest levels of Napo, I really urge all of you to take a moment and please, please cast a vote. It means a lot to the candidates who are putting themselves on the line but a good turnout sends signals elsewhere that our members care about their union and its future well-being.
More news next week, but meanwhile I hope you have an enjoyable bank holiday weekend.
INDICATIVE BALLOT GIVES GOOD SIGNALS AS SOME TRUSTS GET A 'BIT PREVIOUS'
Napo members have provided us with a very useful temperature reading on the industrial action Thermometer. A very loud and clear message from 92% of those voting said that they were up for strike action and action short of a strike, in opposition to TR.
All things considered the turnout was very healthy, and the fact that traditionally not all members choose to take part in any kind of ballot, or prefer to follow the majority verdict, are also an important factor in the total return. But in case you were wondering the response was a good deal higher in percentage terms than most of the inept Politicians who rule over us manage to achieve in their elections.
Anyway, we are about to do a detailed analysis of the ballot which will be vital as we develop the next steps in the overall campaign. As you already know, Industrial Action when it comes, will only take place after a statutory ballot.
The timing of that probability has been endorsed by your National Executive Committee, but it is fair to say that the climate out there is so volatile right now that member's should not be surprised if a National Dispute is suddenly declared at short notice.
Meanwhile, Napo is doing what is has always done and continues with our attempts to have meaningful engagement with Government and the MoJ over TR, even in the face of such abject chaos and a timetable that is simply ridiculous. We do this so that we are best placed to protect our members in either of the two possible outcomes. That's why the National Negotiating Council (NNC) issued their circular NNC 4 &5 /2013 (which I attached to Napo BR circular 96 this week). This indicates that there will be an agreed process to deal with the many HR issues that will need to be resolved even if Grayling continues to get away with being economical with the truth to Parliament, and his Lib Dem allies especially, and succeeds in destroying the Probation service just to satisfy his own vanity - which these days you could probably just squeeze into one of Eddie Stobart's trucks.
So whose interests are being served exactly?
Despite the above, we have recently had to intervene in one Trust in particular, where someone had decided that it was in the best interests of staff to start testing a number of TR scenarios in direct contravention of the agreement we reached with the MOJ about Trusts first being asked to volunteer themselves. This was so we could be told just what it was that was going to be tested; not unreasonably in our view. The important caveat that we managed to establish with the TR Programme Team was that even if Trusts do volunteer, (to which we all sing together: 'Turkeys in a rush for Christmas') then staff do not have to volunteer themselves to take part in the subsequent processes.
The letter to all members that National Chair Tom Rendon and I issued this week makes our position very clear. We think that Trusts shouldn't volunteer themselves and should really act in the best interests of their staff and focus on delivering the contract with the MoJ. But if anyone disrespectfully leans on or threatens you about it 'being in your best interests' to take part in testing, then we need to know.
Justice Forum and Justice Alliance form bonds
A really good meeting of the revitalised Justice Forum took place at PCS HQ this week which was attended by representatives of the 'Coalition of the Willing'; that is: Unions and organisations who are determined to expose the systemic onslaught on the Criminal Justice System (CJS) by this Government, and Graylings (yes him again) plans as announced last week to open up the CJS to all prospective bidders by holding an 'Autumn Trade Fair' in the MoJ.
We will issue a report on the proceedings as soon as we can, but just to say that The Justice Forum provides the resources and intelligence for Napo's, as well as the other founding member union's agendas, to be taken forward into Parliament by the Justice Unions Group. The extension of the Forum will mean more issues being put before Government as we seek to hold them to account for their incompetence and lies and greater co-ordination of campaign activities and industrial action between unions and those who support the common cause.
At the Forum was Matt Foot. Matt, along with our comrades in the legal profession, (yes ok, a bit strong but we're all in this together remember) has created the Justice Alliance which as you probably will have twigged, is leading the charge against the assault on legal aid and price competitive tendering, where it is envisaged that all sorts of Truckers like Eddie Stobart and other Privateers will be able to own everything and represent everyone.
Anyway, we were delighted to receive their support and I was privileged to have been able to address the large Justice Alliance rally the next evening outside the Old Bailey where, as you would expect, I called on the assembled multitude to help us save probation and the CJS.
FCS Parliamentary Group announces its back in business
No, they won't be selling off the silver, but its great news for FCS members as Napo and PCS organised a relaunch of the Family Court Unions Parliamentary Group (FCUPG) which is chaired by our old friend Elfin Llwyd MP and also generously supported by Simpson Millar.
The event at the House of Commons was a little short on MP's in terms of numbers, as it unfortunately clashed with a whipped vote. Nevertheless, a series of distinguished speakers made some insightful contributions into the continuing difficulties faced by practitioners working in the system and the additional pressures caused by inadequate resources from Government, not helped of course by the legal aid reductions.
Best of luck goes out to the FCUPG as it goes about its important work in the coming months.
And the best of luck also, and a warm welcome to Chivalry Road for Tania Bassett, newly appointed National Official (Press Parliament and Campaigns) who reports for duty on Monday.
Tania has a tough act to follow in terms of Mr Fletcher's successes, but her interview for the job suggested that she is not at all fazed by the prospect. Tania is confident dealing with the media, knows her stuff after 12 years in West Mercia probation, and looks ready to bring new ideas and fresh thinking to our outward facing activities. Her addition to the team is good for Napo and our members, but not so good for those who stand against what we stand for.
Minister avoids the G4S and Serco questions...again.
Just back at Chivalry Road after attending the Centre for Social Justice Seminar in Westminster, where London Napo provided a welcoming committee for Chris Grayling beforehand.
His speech to a mainly friendly audience of Voluntary Sector agencies about the 'exciting opportunities' provided by the great Probation carve up, contained it's usual share of platitudes and already tired clichés such as: 'I value the work that Probation does and that's why I am creating a new National Service,' and 'The Peterborough Reoffending Pilot is showing positive results.'
There were lots more of course, but it is often the things that are not said or are merely glossed over that are the most telling. Such as his announcement that there were 600 responses to his 'Rehabilitation Revolution' yet no mention of how many were opposed to it (answer around 500). And his twice repeated pledge that he' did not want the same big players bidding for contracts within the 21 Contract Package Areas.'
But it was his assertion that he 'needed the sharp management skills that only the private sector can provide' that just about took the biscuit for barefaced cheek especially in light of recent well documented events involving G4S and Serco.
Later this week I hope to speak at the Justice Alliance demonstration outside the Old Bailey where will hear from the parents of Jimmy Mupenga, the young man recently killed whilst under the 'care' of G4S. An event that was appalling by any standards in a so called civilised society. Guardian G4S Jimmy Mupenga
More of the same is reported today on the Open Democracy website which informs us that G4S have decided to promote one of their staff who it is alleged was involved in another custody death, G4S custody death
Add these to the myriad issues that have surfaced about Serco and G4s activities in the Justice Sector since a chastened Commons statement by the SoS on 4th July, which announced an SFO investigation into overcharging and the tagging of dead people, and it adds up to one thing: these two companies are unfit for purpose; they should be barred from all current contracts, and bidding for new ones and, given that they are likely to be among the privateers sniffing around Probation services, told to get off the reservation.
But the Minister won't do that of course, for even on the eve of his announcement to Parliament he refused to rule out G4S and Serco from winning contacts under his Transforming Rehabilitation 'mission' as he now likes to call it.
Perhaps it is not only the Privateers who are unfit for purpose? Unfortunately, I was unable to put that question directly to the Minister after this morning's event, as he dodged all attempts to say hello by adroitly finding the rear exit.
Why an Indicative Ballot is important
The idea of Industrial Action is a tough call for many trade union members and Napo has only undertaken such a step twice in its proud history unless the records lie.
But the gravity of the threat posed by Graylings TR agenda, and the sheer destruction that it will bring have led your leadership to conclude that we must start to build the campaign to take co-ordinated action. This would take place only after a statutory ballot, and alongside other unions if we cannot persuade this Government to engage with us about the best way to assist the short term custodial community without first tearing the soul out of the probation service.
Your job and your livelihood must surely be worth fighting for? So please find that ballot paper, get it in the postbox and tell us what you are prepared to do.
More blog news soon, and do look out for the joint letters to all members from Tom Rendon and myself about the TR campaign which are now a regular feature.
Edited: 23/07/2013 at 07:15 PM by IanLawrence
Carry on regardless
The reaction of the Justice Secretary and his ever growing army of civil servants and soothsayers in the wake of last week's vote against the Offender Rehabilitation Bill (ORB) in the House of Lords, might have been pulled straight from the scripts to one of those Ealing 'comedies' that spanned the 60s and 70s - yes, sadly I remember them even if many of you do not.
Afficionados of such nonsense will recall that Sid James, Hattie Jacques, Frankie Howerd, Kenneth Williams et al, at least managed to introduce a modicum of humour and double entendre to the woeful and incredibly inappropriate material that they had to work with. By contrast, Chis Grayling, the main villain of the piece in the Government's own 'Carry on the (Rehab) Revolution' seems determined to ad-lib his way through his increasingly wretched performance. His post-Lords' directive to his spin doctors, to act as if the caning that his Minister Lord McNally received from his peers was just some kind of bad dream, smacks of both stultifying arrogance and a complete reality bypass.
You don't have to be a rocket scientist to know that the Government will do all it can to overturn the Lords' amendment in the Commons, but the suggestion that 'they don't need' the ORB to push ahead with their destruction of the Probation Service and the bulk of your jobs along with it, ignores the fact that 'Senior Leaders' suffered a humiliating defeat which exposed the inherent risks of the TR plans and the dishonesty (or ignorance) of the politicians who signed it off. Even MoJ officials had to admit afterwards that, as Political ambushes go, last Tuesday's effort by Lords Ramsbotham and Beecham (with some superb assistance from friends) showed quite clearly that there is some life in the Napo underdog.
But predictably, the disinformation campaign by the Ministry to further demoralise and confuse its own workforce continues apace, with even more civil servants producing even more often mind boggling strategy papers by the minute. This deliberately divisive and provocative reaction is supplemented by constant instructions to Chiefs to 'get on with it', by way of weekly directives from the MoJ bunker. After one such event a contact told me that it was worryingly redolent of the portrayal by Anthony Hopkins in that (not at all funny) film: 'Downfall'.
Let 'Failing Grayling' know how you feel
This cynical rush to get TR implemented without proper public and Parliamentary scrutiny is why Napo and Unison have now launched indicative ballots to test our members resolve to take Industrial Action so that we can develop the next stages of the campaign.
This exercise won't commit you to action but a good 'Yes' vote is needed to send a clear message to Ministers that they should do less directing and more listening. Please don't leave this on the shelf or kitchen table...it's your chance to help us raise the stakes.
Did you see?
The brilliant 'Save Probation' video from South Yorkshire Napo available now via YouTube
It's Criminal - Napo South Yorkshire
Another example of an innovative campaigning tool in action and congratulations to all those involved; absolutely first rate!
Far less entertaining but nevertheless worthwhile viewing is this week's session of the Justice Committee where I was questioned about Napo's views on many aspects of TR.
Here I was able to get most of our key objections, as well as our alternatives, across to a number of influential politicians. Their questions suggest that they, like an increasing number of their community have yet to be convinced that the Rehabilitation Revolution will produce the benefits that are being claimed by the Coalition. This of course presupposes that all the Coalition partners have been told the whole truth by Mr Grayling.
Vieew the hearing here
Our cause found an unexpected ally in the form of Richard Johnson whose testimony that Grayling's flagship 'Workplan' project had failed, and that the PbR formula under TR will do nothing to improve upon current reoffending rates, was quite simply dynamite.
It's worth a look Minister.
Let's see the Risk Register if you don't mind?
Since all our requests to obtain the leaked document referred to in the Times, Guardian and the House of Lords last week have been rebuffed, Napo has today written to the Secretary of State to formally request it.
Given the previous form of the Justice Secretary to these demands I am not exactly holding my breath.
More news soon and thanks for checking in.
BTW my twitter account is: @ilawrencel
Edited: 04/07/2013 at 11:54 AM by IanLawrence
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