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|General Secretary's Blog - TUC Blog Bournemouth 2013 and a lot more besides|
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.
TUC Blog Bournemouth 2013 and a lot more besides
Just bad faith or a breach of the agreed negotiating conditions?
It seems to me there are other things that are worse than 'bad faith' as well. Parliament set the length of time needed to terminate a Probation Trust - that is the employers of most members - they have been asked to vary that time without even a debate in parliament, let alone legislation.
I would like to see Napo & if they are willing Unison & SCOOP, challenge such bad faith in The High Court with a Judicial Review - I don't see why the Probation Association and Probation Chiefs' Association also should not share the load - they too are having their operating rules changed by dictat rather than legislation.
I realise it is costly and not a certainty we will win but it must be worthwhile challenging him in such a structured public and legal way - surely? I for one would put some dosh in the kitty, as perhaps some others would if invited.
Meanwhile thanks to Ian and the Chivalry Road staff and officers for all their efforts which obviously are considerable.
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