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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
Labour's initiatives very welcome....but?
Another frenetic week for Napo was rounded off with our well attended and successful PSO Conference in London where Labours Shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan, set out his party's alternative vision for the Probation Service (full coverage of this now available on the Napo website).
Some weeks ago after Harry and I had met with Labours justice team, we felt there was still a fair amount of water between them and Napo over the future direction that an incoming administration would take in terms of the Rehabilitation agenda. But the hard work behind the scenes since then (some of which I mentioned in my last posting), looks like it has yielded some progress.
Sadiq was again very fulsome in his praise of probation practitioners; his views no doubt refreshed by his recent visits to London, Manchester and Durham/Tees Valley Trusts, and his address to the PSO conference was welcomed by all present. He talked about the 14% cut in numbers since 2010, the success of the service in reducing reoffending rates to the lowest figure since 2007 and the unwillingness of Justice Secretary Chris Grayling to recognise this evidence.
He also offered a timely reminder to the audience about the abject failure of Mr Grayling's 'Workplan', claiming that it has left more people out of work than before whilst costing the taxpayer billions. This prefaced an onslaught on the Coalitions TR agenda and the ideology of 'let's just do it and see' that depressingly underpins it all.
Moving adroitly on to expose yet again what we all know about the dangers of inadequate risk management (but Grayling doesn't) Sadiq called for greater public transparency in terms of the so called evidence for introducing Payment by Results (PbR) which it is believed will contribute less than 10%
of the proposed contracts.
Ok, so what are you going to do?
So much then for what Labour were against as we all waited with baited breath as to what they are actually for. Here the Justice shadow spoke out strongly in favour of doing 'what works', giving trusts greater freedom to innovate without micromanagement from Whitehall or by spending shedloads of new public money which Labour will not have. He also dusted down some of the commitments from the last Labour administration that did not all quite make the tick box section of their record in power.
Most crucially Sadiq confirmed that Labour will have no truck with the 70/30% 'crazy split' demarcation that is currently obsessing Grayling and his growing army of Civil Servants at the MoJ.
But he made it clear that 'greater freedom would bring responsibility as well as stretching targets' and that Trusts who he described as 'coasting' would be especially targeted as he threatened to introduce harsh sanctions in such situations.
Finally, he highlighted the work that Labour is doing in tandem with Napo to lay amendments to the current Offender Rehabilitation Bill and set out his intention to try and secure a block on the privatisation programme at least until the TR plans have been subject to a full public and Parliamentary analysis.
The Napo view
It almost goes without saying that any of us would be hard pushed to argue with the above, but among my key points in response were:
. That Labour needs to help us highlight the contradiction between Mr Grayling's spurious claims that the PbR schemes at HMP Peterborough and Doncaster somehow represent success, while the Minister defies requests to publish the results of the Pilot schemes in Staffs/West Mids. and Wales Trusts.
. That if the Secretary of State thinks he should not roll out the Prison based PbR schemes in full before an extended evaluation pilot, then why does he not do the same for his TR agenda? And furthermore, why disallow Trusts from bidding for work?
. That Napo believes that Labour should announce that they would revisit the current £107m per annum spent on Electronic Tagging schemes that make no discernible difference to future reoffending rates and shift resources into Probation. This would allow us to engage with the under-12 month Custodial Community that we all want to see assisted.
. Labour should announce that they will tear up any contracts awarded within the proposed 21 TR package areas without compensation from the Taxpayer when or if, they form the next Government.
Finally, I acknowledged Sadiq's continual references to the fact that Probation works. Well it certainly does: and to keep it that way and to bring about improvements in performance I said that we don't need new money from a Labour Government, just a refocus on the billions of wasted pounds that are currently spent within the justice sector on rehabilitation initiatives that are not producing the goods.
Watch this space.
A word about the Election
No, not the one that cannot come soon enough, but the Napo General Secretary one that I have just successfully emerged from.
I will say a bit more in the next Napo News but I wanted to take this first opportunity to thank all of our members who took part for casting a vote; to Hugh Lanning for ensuring that you had a choice and most of all, to those of you who put their faith in me.
It is a great privilege, and I will do everything I can to justify your support in what is now the ultimate test for all of us.
More Blog news to follow later in what will be another highly interesting week for Napo.
A week in the life of Napo
Monday brought me my first encounter with Russia TV in an interview held on College Green. The English version of their 'news round' reaches a target audience of over 2 million viewers in the UK and they seem very keen to spread our message about the Government's attempts to dismantle the Probation service. A few hours back at Chivalry Road and then on to an evening meeting at the House of Commons where I met with the Labour Front Bench Commons and Lords Parliamentary teams, to discuss their proposed amendments to the Offender Rehabilitation Bill which is now at reading stage. Here I joined a number of committed academics and supporters of Napo to provide an updated narrative about the threats posed by the TR agenda, building on the excellent analysis of the draft legislation previously undertaken by Harry Fletcher and Tom Rendon.
Tuesday morning and it was up to Birmingham to address the Napo Managers Conference which attracted a really good attendance and a diverse range of guest speakers whose efforts were much appreciated, alongside those of Eve Chester and Annoesjka Valent for their organisational skills and for producing a thoroughly relevant and high quality Agenda. It's a pity that Ministers don't get to this type of event instead of the showpiece 'landscaping' tours that they undertake into Probation Trusts. They would have learnt much from the dedicated professionals present about the horrendous damage they are determined to inflict upon the service.
Wednesday saw Napo back at the House of Commons alongside PCS, POA, and The Police Federation where I was one of the speakers at the packed 'Justice in Meltdown' Parliamentary Summit. Napo Branches worked hard to lobby their MP's to attend the event and meet them afterwards and I understand that Napo's Gordon Jackson was able to engage with Chris Grayling on a chance Commons staircase meeting where he shared a few words!
Justice in Meltdown was also attended by National Representatives from Unison and I was able to formally announce that Napo will be consulting with our members in advance of a ballot for industrial action, and called upon all those organisations present representing members across the many strands of the justice sector to work with us to achieve some co-ordination. We have also found new allies in the form of the legal professions who told us how the Coalitions plans to cut legal aid are yet another recipe for chaos. Meetings are also scheduled to take place with our new found learned friends to see how their superb material and practical resources can be directed to the joint campaign.
Another speaking slot beckoned at the prestigious IARS Conference straight afterwards where Dr Theo Gavrielides and Sophie Blake jointly launched their excellent new book 'Improving Outcomes for Black and Minority Ethnic users of Probation. (IARS research £9.99).
The efforts of Greater London Probation Trust in this project were also rightly applauded, as were the stewardship of Janett Brown and a contribution from Heather Munro and Doreen Lawrence. Unfortunately my next engagement meant that I could only stay for part of this exciting event, but the willingness of my hosts to move me up the agenda (many thanks Theo) gave me an opportunity to immediately follow a contribution from Professor Rod Morgan who in my view was somewhat unhealthily supportive of the Rehabilitation Agenda.
I didn't need much by that time to make our case in response, but in the spirit of the theme of the conference I raised our concerns about the total lack of diversity within the Grayling and Clegg proposals both in terms of their impact on service users but staff as well, citing the disproportionate impact on BME personnel of Serco's redundancy programme after the award of the London CP contract.
Another interesting and unanswered question (among hundreds more ) is where the Equality Impact Assessment for these 10,000 voluntary 'meet and greet' mentors is going to be undertaken as they roll up in their droves to take Graylings great revolution forward, of course laden with new housing opportunities and job offers.
Back to House of Lords in the afternoon to meet Megan Elliot and listen to the opening stages of the Lords debate on the Offender Rehabilitation Bill, where Chris Grayling was spotted at the commoners end of the House until it was confirmed that a debate on his bill was actually going to reach Committee. Was it me or did he look a tad anxious?
Thursday brought an early morning breakfast meeting with Harry Fletcher and Simeon Andrews from the Justice Unions Parliamentary Group. Here we took stock of the political ramifications of Labours proposed Bill amendments and considered how they fitted in to our developing campaign plan which the Napo Officers will shortly be reviewing.
Back to base then for an action packed few hours before heading to Luton for an evening public meeting organised by Chiltern Counties Napo, where I spoke alongside local MP's Gavin Shukar and Kelvin Hopkins whose support for the Napo campaign is very much appreciated.
Friday And a not so quiet day in Chivalry Road wading through myriad issues and pulling together the start of a report to the Officers Group, followed by a meeting with GMB's Brian Strutton to look at the impact of the Transforming Rehabilitation programme on members of the LGPS. It's a bigger mess than anyone could imagine as the Government scrabbles around for quick fixes on pensions to allow their friends in the Private Sector to get their foot in the door. Watch this space.
You do your jobs please Chiefs and we will do ours
When it comes to the attempted implementation of the TR agenda there are a number of issues beyond the purely political that could see this plan come a cropper. Just a quick look at the those below, which are by no means exhaustive, show how complex the subject matter and the timetable actually is. This means that clear answers will be needed to these and the 60 or more Parliamentary questions that Napo has submitted. Relevant information will flow downwards to Trusts once they have been the subject of National discussion and negotiation NNC Circ 4/2013 refers (not that you can expect Union agreement on many of them).
. The proposed methodology for achieving the intended 70/30% split of staff
. How the 30% National Probation Service is to be established
. Governance and accountability within the proposed 21 contract areas
. Arrangements for winding down the 35 trusts and possible office closures
. Terms of reference for the handling of TR related issues at NNC and SCOG
. Sharing of critical path information
. Detail of any transfer process
. Pension liability
. Redundancy terms
. Strategy for staff communications
. Equality impact assessments
That's why many members have contacted me to kick off about the content and tone of a number of communications recently issued by certain Chiefs about the potential impact of TR.
OK, everyone knows that Grayling is determined to push his plans through. All Ministers are and that's why this one (just like his predecessors) is spending millions of pounds of taxpayer's money to try and disassemble the service, destroy morale, and give the impression that everything is inevitable. But while some people swoon in awe at this most obvious of observations, remember that political history is littered with examples of defeats, u-turns and fudges in the face of sustained intelligent and, occasionally ferocious, opposition.
Chiefs know that just as well as anyone; so while most are doing their best to impart news on a factual and neutral basis, there are sadly some who have taken it upon themselves to suggest among other things 'that it's no good wasting time resisting' or that 'it (TR) represents an exciting opportunity'.
No doubt some people will see TR as some kind of adrenalin fuelled and exhilarating leap into the dark, but I suspect that won't include many of the 70% of staff who are facing either redundancy or massive changes to their future terms and conditions. Treating staff to such patronising and downright poor communication is nothing short of shameful.
If I were cynical I might see it all as a positioning thing, but surely not?
Edited: 11/06/2013 at 01:33 PM by IanLawrence
Clegg accuses Napo of 'complacency over reoffending rates'
It is said that one should never write posts, blogs or e-mails whilst in a state of incandescent rage, but even a few hours after hearing Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announce another £7 million package of public money to help towards the decimation of the Probation service, I can hold back no longer.
I must have heard any number of politicians wax lyrical about being 'tough on the causes of crime' as well as the crimes themselves; and how the previous government provided rhetoric rather than substance on re-offending, but Mr Clegg's address on Crime, Victims and Rehabilitation at NACRO earlier today just about took the biscuit.
The DPM trotted out the same old mantra that 'new' ideas were needed to deal with the prolific rise in reoffending, whilst again omitting to mention that this applies to those in the short term custodial community who are not seen by the Probation Service, as opposed to the 5.6% reduction in reoffending rates by those who come through your doors.
Not many politicians would be comfortable coping with the inquisitorial but highly knowledgeable style of London Napo's Pat Waterman, who Nick unwisely chose to call on first during 'Any questions?' Pat's eloquent contribution put the DPM on the back foot and seriously questioned the Governments rationale for the great Probation sell off. Pat also reminded the DPM that he had spectacularly failed (just as his predecessors did) to mention the role of the Probation service in his speech as he did his level best to mimic Chris Graylings recent assertions that everyone other than the 30% 'high risk' caseworkers in the Probation service are just a saleable asset.
Worse was to follow as Mr Clegg accused Napo of being 'complacent about reoffending rates' and 'that we should not be opposed to every new idea that emerged on the subject'. This was a red rag to this particular bull, as I was eventually able to point out the facts about reoffending rates and ask the DPM to explain how sacking or privatising 70% of highly skilled Probation practitioners so that increasingly discredited companies such as G4S and Serco could take their place, was in any way sensible.
His riposte that he didn't have the money to spend on the 50,000 per year short term custodial's was something of a contradiction in light of the £7 million that had suddenly emerged out of thin air to help Mutualisation, and just a few days after the expose of the Electronic Monitoring excess charges allegation against G4S and Serco. Moreover, Mr Clegg ignored (or chose to avoid) the fact that the Probation service has an excellent track record of already working in partnership with voluntary providers.
I will be writing in more detail to the Deputy Prime Minister in the probably forlorn hope that the introduction of a few facts might help him understand the gravity and ideological recklessness of the Transforming Rehabilitation experiment. I will let you know how it goes.
We're doing our best to keep you posted
In the last week or so Napo has issued copious amounts of campaign material, campaign bulletins, press releases and rebuttal statements in support of our TR campaign. Your Officers, Officials and Branch activists have also undertaken scores of live media or press interviews in response to the 9th May TR announcements.
At the same time, Napo has regularly engaged with Government Ministers, MoJ and Noms and PA Officials and has had to assimilate reams of information as well as that relayed to us by members and branches (keep it coming by the way).
We have done this whilst we embark on finding a replacement for Harry Fletcher (whose pro-bono work with us is still vitally important) and while your Officials and Chivalry Road staff team (two positions light at the moment) work flat out on the campaign as well as delivering 'business as usual' for our members. What we achieve on this front for a union of our size is quite astonishing.
Whilst the pressures of your day jobs means it is not always easy to read everything we issue as quickly as you would like, we are increasingly moving towards electronic communication as a means of keeping you updated along with the traditional methods such as 'Napo News' by post for members who prefer it. The excellent efforts of the communications team here at Chivalry Road also sees 'Napo News' going on line and interactive, http://naponewsonline.org/ which means that it ought to be possible to make this a living document that we can add to as developments unfold.
No need to make decisions at this stage
As indicated in my recent memo to Branches, Napo and our sister unions have insisted that central talks take place within the National Negotiating Council machinery about the staffing issues that have emerged as a result of the TR agenda. Notwithstanding our continuing and implacable opposition to the Governments plans, we have a responsibility to ensure that we are able to give the right advice at the right time to Napo members.
That's why we are in the process of setting up consultative arrangements between all the interested parties as mentioned above, so that we do not have a situation where even more chaos and uncertainty than currently exists is heaped upon the Probation workforce. This is especially the case in respect of the deliberately divisive and despicable government strategy of wanting to segregate the workforce into a 70/30% divide. This has to be right up there alongside the myriad of professional issues that have just not been thought through, and so any precipitate action by Trusts is not only unhelpful but might genuinely be construed by their employees as being somewhat complicit.
Quality of experts in family courts
The Government recently announced new national standards to raise the quality of experts used in family courts and get rid of time-consuming evidence which they claim adds little value in helping judges reach a decision.
The consultation period lasts until 18th July after which the Government will decide on the next steps. Meanwhile, our Family Court Section experts (FCPCTC) will put together a submission, probably in consultation with the Parliamentary Family Court Group and in partnership with other interested organisations.
As always the Government makes it all sound so reasonable and plausible, but I am advised that some fear it is simply a covert attack on the quality and extent of the expert evidence given in Family Court Proceedings, merely in order to cut costs. If so, this will impact on the Court's ability to promote children's welfare and safeguard them along with vulnerable adults. It seems to me that this presents another useful opportunity to highlight the excellent work done by skilled Guardians.
Mutualisation: the debate rages on
Part of our campaigning work against the Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) proposals includes the need to drill down beneath the Ministerial hype which says that Mutual's who 'spin out' from Probation Trusts under some fancy new title (to deliver risk and intervention management to the same clients that they have always dealt with and presumably the under-12 months custodial community by payment by results) are a positive move that will bring choice and a sense of ownership to the staff who might be involved.
That's why Napo is in high level engagement with MOJ officials and the Cabinet Office specialists who are currently assisting those senior Trust leaders who have expressed an interest in forming a mutual. Branches will soon be receiving information which should help our members better understand the concept and allow them to take part in meaningful discussion at events being organised by their employers about what mutualisation would actually mean for them.
Unfortunately, and just as we always suspected, the Government have devised this superficially attractive proposition as a bit of a smoke screen to mask the more sinister aspects of their plans to fragment and ultimately destroy the Probation Service as we know it.
This weeks meeting of your National Executive Committee (NEC) had a packed agenda to deal with, and a common theme running through a number of contributions was about the governments plans to categorise Probation staff into a '70% or 30% pot', to assist would be providers prepare their bids for the low and medium risk work that Mr Grayling intends to put up for grabs.
This insidious process speaks volumes about the so-called respect that Ministers claim to have about the professional skills of our members as they create a situation where 70% of probation staff are effectively marked out for auction. Overwhelmingly, the view from NEC representatives was that the Government is about creating even more fear and uncertainty than already exists in the hope that this will incentivise staff to leap desperately for the mutualisation lifeboat.
For while a number of Trusts combine to scope out the possibilities for mutual models which they hope would be able to compete in the great probation sell off against the shoals of well funded sharks circling the sea's, some disturbing questions remain unanswered including:
*Who is going to pay the redundancy costs for Probation staff who are either not selected for the 30% 'High Risk Work' pool and who may subsequently be deemed surplus to requirements by a new private sector or third party provider?
*Who will cover the pension liabilities of staff upon their transfer to a new private sector or third party provider?
*Will there be assessment centres and appeal processes to determine which category staff are placed in?
*Will many would be Mutual's realistically be able to win their bid without money from the Private Sector?
Conventional wisdom suggests that the first two scenarios will be footed by the Taxpayer; which totally contradicts the Governments claim that TR is about transferring risk away from the public purse.
So while all sorts of fluffy language will be used to convince staff and our member's that Mutualisation is a positive development, perhaps someone might explain why millions of pounds are being spent to dismantle something that already works?
Yes they are in the news again
Serco are likely to be one the big movers and shakers in the probation gold rush; they of London CP fame have latterly been hauled over the coals by Parliaments Public Accounts Committee over their handling of the privatised out-of-hours GP service contract in Cornwall.
Serco Article: Who will hold NHS contractors Serco to account?
The report suggests that MPs have apparently given Serco a roasting for 'lying and cheating', but the company is yet to suffer a penalty.
MPs were merciless in their judgment of Serco's behaviour and the failure of the Health Trust to hold the group, which has £2.4bn of public-sector contracts, to account. The PAC had previously commissioned the National Audit Office to report on the service provided by Serco.
Fills you with confidence doesn't it?
Justice for Columbia (JFC) ... a reality at last?
Napo's affiliation to and activities within special interest organisations has occasionally engendered fierce debate at our Annual Conferences, but Napo's support for the JFC campaign is one that all members can be proud of.
It is unfathomable to even think about a society that leaves those who share the same fundamental beliefs that we do about freedom of association and the right to campaign peacefully for a more just and equitable system of government to live under the daily fear of disappearance and usually the death that follows.
That's why I was pleased to attend a reception this week to support the work of the Patriotic March for Peace. This is a mass community movement who recently encouraged hundreds of thousands of Columbian citizens to mobilise in support of the latest attempt to reach a peace process. This will hopefully bring an end to the seemingly endless armed, social and political conflict that is taking place there.
The courage of the campaigners who spoke with such dignity despite witnessing unspeakable acts of violence and cruelty against their comrades and loved ones, were an absolute inspiration.
May is going to be another busy month in the Napo calendar with the expected Government response to TR and the next round of Branch Meetings starting next week. It is important that branches give Chivalry Road as much notice as possible if you require a speaker (contact Annoesjka Valent at firstname.lastname@example.org). Napo members are encouraged to get along and participate in the life of your union as well as hear news about what we are trying to do on your behalf. The election for Napo's next General Secretary will also be launched in a few weeks and it's important that any members who may have recently changed their address keep Anne and Tay at Chivalry Road up to speed with their new details (contact email@example.com).
Justice in Meltdown
Finally look out for news soon on the big event in London on 5th June where Napo alongside our sister Unions in the Criminal Justice System, will be holding a major lobby and rally in the House of Commons to highlight the governments attacks on the CJS.
Edited: 26/04/2013 at 03:51 PM by IanLawrence
Chairs and Secretaries in good form
Here's hoping that you are in the midst of a welcome Easter break or have come back refreshed after some half decent weather.
Just before the recess we had an excellent gathering of Napo Branch Chairs and Secretaries as well as activists from the FCS. It was an important opportunity to take stock of our priorities, especially the campaign against Chris Grayling's somewhat unpopular Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) plans along with other pressing developments such as the position on 'Facilities Time' and the imminent introduction of charges for the submission of Employment Tribunal claims. As if that was not enough we had a quick look at the legislation stemming from the 'Jackson Review' which will soon sever the commercial link between Unions and the lawyers pursuing Personal Injury claims on behalf of their members.
Obviously Napo will continue to provide advice in these areas and publish detailed information to you about the impact of these changes. The other key issue that we spent some time on was the need to step up our efforts to recruit new members and our aim to collect your personal e-mail details so that we can establish and then maintain direct contact with you when the Government decides to close down the normal routes.
The so called 'Gagging Order' recently issued by the MoJ to Probation Chiefs was also a bit of a talking point at the meeting, where many believed that Ministers and their apparatchiks in the MoJ are running pretty scared of the emerging truth (frequently appearing in a social media outlet near you), about TR and how it is increasingly being seen as one big ideological ego trip.
By the way, just a reminder that users of social media should always make it clear that they are posting either in a personal capacity or on behalf of Napo members by way of their Union position.
Are you with us Chief.....?
Further evidence of how desperate this Government is to not only destroy the fabric of the Probation service as quickly as they can while taking thousands of your jobs with it, comes with the news of the formation of an oddly named 'Sounding Board'.
This gathering of Trust Chairs and Chiefs, senior MoJ officials, experts in the field and others, had its first meeting the other week. Here it was revealed by the Minister that the purpose of the Sounding Board was to invite suggestions on the 'Nuts and Bolts' of the TR programme and to 'recognise the challenges ahead.'
I have to assume the latter comment includes those irksome Trade Unions who are irritatingly speaking out against the plans, and whose campaigning efforts have attracted some noteworthy support from many Trust Chiefs over the last three months.
This has been very welcome and I hope it continues notwithstanding the Orwellian attempts by the latter day 'Ministry of Truth' to shut them up. A key area of the Sounding Boards future deliberations will include the question of risk oversight in a privatised Probation service, but there would be no sweeter noise to emerge from this forum than a resounding: 'Minister, just don't do this.'
We have been promised transparency around the outcomes from this initiative (which predictably does not include the Trade Unions who actually represent our members), and there will be those on board the Board who will justifiably argue that it's better to be in the tent than out so to speak; but in the finest Orwellian traditions we should soon see who is with us, and who is not.
Parliament important but so is direct action
Elsewhere in the Campaign Blog, you will see the excellent support that we are securing from many politicians against TR, and what we are doing to ratchet up the pressure on Labour and Lib-Dems to move to a more visible and believable position of opposition. But the fact is (and this was very much evident from our Chairs and Secretaries meeting) that we are fast approaching a point where Napo and other Unions within the Criminal Justice System will be compelled to ballot our members to support industrial action in defence of jobs and to oppose privatisation. For we are in a meltdown situation in the CJS which needs to be highlighted to the wider public and who we will need to speak out at the next general election. Make no mistake, this will be a tough ask that we intend to make of you, but we are running out of options in the face of a government who are arrogantly defying public opinion whilst being determined to sell off everything they can.
Meet your Local PCC
I guess by what I have said so far that I will probably have upset a few people, so while I am on a roll let me reveal that I don't expect to be invited to another Police and Crime Commissioner Conference any time soon following my appearance at their event last week.
The PCC's whom I met with alongside a whole range of other useful contacts were not the problem and were very receptive to Napo's issues, (and it is vital that Napo Branches establish contact with them very soon). But it was clear that the Chair had an agenda which did not include the uncomfortable question about how Transforming Rehabilitation fits in with the PCC's manifesto pledges or not, as the case may be.
My reasonable contribution/question on this was in danger of being cut short by the Chair who glibly suggested 'that it was not pertinent to the conference' but I managed nonetheless to get my oar in, and before leaving covered every seat with our excellent A5 handout fluorescent Orange campaign leaflet (now available from Chivalry Road).
Anyone have a decent suggestion for my next disguise?
What's the use of the TUC?
Having just arrived back from a meeting of the Public Services Liaison Group (PSLG), which agreed its working programme for the remainder of this year, the answer is a categoric: "Very useful."
At a time when public service workers are subject to daily attacks about their value to society, it is somewhat reassuring to know that amongst the chaos that masquerades as a sensible political debate, the TUC is applying its energies towards a vision for the future that is designed to command widespread public support.
The key aim among many others is to reaffirm and promote unions and the TUC as champions of public services and high quality jobs for well-trained, properly rewarded and supported staff.
As always Napo tries to play a leading role in the deliberations at the PSLG, and I have briefed our sister unions on the real and present danger posed by Chris Grayling's 'Reforming Rehabilitation' agenda. I have also established contact with the TUC specialist on the concept of 'Mutualisation' as part of our ongoing work on the scenarios that we may have to deal with if our ongoing campaign fails to prevent our members' worst fears becoming reality.
The TUC is also very interested in hearing more about the 'Rehabilitation Revolution' in the context of its major research project into privatisation and especially how this might impact on the Probation Service and the wider aspects of risk management, intervention and community safety. The PSLG work over the next few months also includes the following:-
-a Manifesto for Public Services;
-campaign materials opposing privatisation and a major research project;
-gathering and sharing information about progress with 2013 pay claims and negotiations;
-a conference on 'Trade Union Organising Strategy' and the impact of reductions in Facility Time;
-campaigning material against further cuts and privatisation in the NHS and Education sectors.
More cuts are just a false economy
Lord Neuberger, the UK's most senior judge, has seemingly joined the anti-austerity bandwagon if his recent comments on Government plans to shave £350m a year off the legal aid bill are anything to go by.
Forget the headline stuff about making known criminals sell their Bentleys and country mansions to pay off their legal bills; this is ostensibly about more litigants in person tying up Court Staff on procedural issues and hearings that last longer and cost the taxpayer more as a result. Oh, and of course fewer courts than there were last year.
While it is probably going a bit far to expect Lord Neuberger to be joining you at an anti-cuts rally somewhere soon, his stinging critique of the Government and the controversial remarks reportedly made by Home Secretary Theresa May who is said to have attacked judges for 'ignoring' the rules on the deportation of foreign nationals, leaves little doubt about his ire.
News on the MoJ grapevine is that Ministers are getting a tad tetchy at what they see as unacceptable criticism from senior probation managers about the 'Rehab Revolution'.
Let us be honest, all governments are wary of internal revolts against unpopular policies, and the recent Michael Gove U-turn over his planned education reforms has probably made them feel a bit sensitive. But let us hope that the gentle reminder from the department to all staff to 'ensure that they are aware of their responsibilities' in terms of public pronouncements which are contrary to the Grayling proposals, does not lead to a new MoJ appointment of 'Witchfinder General'.
Good Practice in Family Proceedings
I have just signed off the excellent submission to the Family Justice Board Consultation on the above. This was drafted by the Family Court Professional, Campaigning and Training Committee and is available (also on the website news section) in the form of FCPCTC 05/2013.
Hopefully, the Politicos who have endorsed the legal aid cuts as described earlier will reflect on the commentary that our resident FCS experts in care and private law proceedings are saying about the current system, especially around the Governments false contention that care proceedings have not been well served by independent social workers, and how Cafcass staff are best placed to assist the parties in seeking resolution.
Appreciation to the FCPCTC for their work, and FCS members should also look out for news on the Family Court Professional Conference to be held in York on 23rd May.
THE TROUBLE IS...
They just don't get it. For having returned from listening to yet another 'same old, same old' keynote speech from Police and Justice Minister Damien Green (which had a remarkable similarity to those of his predecessors), I could not help feeling that we have an Administration that thinks they know the price of everything but in reality have no idea of well, the value of much at all really.
Fair cop to Damien who, as I pointed out to him in the open debate that followed, at least had the good grace to mention the Probation Service once in his address but also had a bit of a dig at the many 'vested interests' who oppose the 'Transforming Justice' and his own 'More for Less' project reforms. These essentially expect the battered and bruised Criminal Justice System to markedly reduce the time between the offence and the sentence overnight.
So, another 'new' Criminal Justice Board is to be formed; along with more joined up sentencing, extensive use of video conferencing by the police and other agencies, and all the other things that yes, we have all heard before.
But oddly enough no mention by the Minister of the deleterious impact of further Court closures, the decimation of support and interpretation services, staff not getting the time they need to produce high quality reports, and an over reliance on Oral reports for the Speedy Justice Courts that are regularly demanded of our practitioners. Add to this mix the 'Early Guilty Plea' scheme, on which many Napo members tell me the Jury is out in terms of its effectiveness, and the propensity of private companies to sometimes deliver the defendant or those due for sentencing, to the right place at the right time or even the right day for that matter. Not exactly progress is it?
Agreement reached on the Rehabilitation Agenda
Don't get too excited. I am talking about the one piece of common ground between Napo, and our sister Unions and the Prisons and Rehabilitation Minister Jeremy Wright, whom we saw again last week.
It was a constructive meeting which featured some pretty robust exchanges where we wasted no time in telling Jeremy how his proposals, (to which Napo is submitting an excellent response alongside many others) have whipped up a firestorm of opposition from unions, parliamentarians, professional associations, community groups and individual members of the public.
That we all recognise the need to assist the under-12 month custodial community is beyond doubt; but there is a huge ideological gap between the Government and ourselves as to how this will best be achieved. Napo argued strongly that early public investment in this group would pay massive medium to long term dividends if the Probation Service was allowed to design the requisite intervention schemes and have the up front resources which would ensure that the majority of the under-12 month custodial community did not appear on our books further down the line.
We also said that this 'reverse PBR' process surely represents better value to the taxpayer than Chris Graylings ill-considered social experiment, where the rehabilitation of this critical grouping is to be placed in the hands of untrained, untried and more often than not, already proven to be unworthy, private companies.
Ministerial meetings are just a small component of Napo's vibrant fight back against the Transforming Rehabilitation plans, so do look out for more news about these and the huge amount of activity being undertaken by Napo Branches and the Chivalry Road team in the Napo Campaign Blog over the next two days.
Edited: 21/02/2013 at 11:07 AM by IanLawrence
The struggle of our lives
Being entrusted with the role of Napo Acting General Secretary is a great honour, but events are moving at such a speed that there has been no time for the self-indulgence of celebration. I see my immediate objective as helping Napo through this temporarily difficult period by utilising the skills and the vast knowledge of all those around me, and my 40 years trade union experience, as we pursue the issues that matter to our members throughout Probation and Cafcass.
For if its' not already been made inescapably clear to all Napo members, we face the biggest singular threat to our survival at any time in our proud 100 year history as a trade union and professional association. The potential privatisation (around 70%) of core probation work, and a commensurate loss of Napo members' (and non-members) jobs by way of Secretary of State Chris Graylings' Transforming Rehabilitation agenda. It's a plan that has attracted diverse commentary ranging from 'ambitious' on the one hand, or having about as much substance as a beef burger on the other.
This is why your Officers and Officials and Staff have already turned all of our available resources into building and launching a major campaign of opposition that, for a union of our size, has already made a huge impact in the media and political circles; and its one which many local Napo activists have wasted no time in taking out to the wider public. One thing is already clear: and that is that this campaign will only work if we act in partnership at Branch and National level and support each other every step of the way.
Modern day campaigning methods demand that Napo takes advantage of new opportunities to get our message across; and last week I took part in a live 'on-line' debate hosted by the Guardian Public Leaders initiative. Here I helped to get our big messages across to a surprisingly large audience about the threats to probation. You can see the whole debate on #Probationinperil.
Further details of what we have done and when, appears on the Napo Campaign Blog and this will be updated as often as possible with fresh news. So please get everyone you know to sign up to the e-petition to stop privatisation and keep those stories and pictures rolling in so that others can see what you have been up to!
Out there... doing it for communities
Just how valuable our members work is, has been further amplified by last weeks BBC documentary 'Out of Jail and On the Streets'. I understand that some 2 million viewers were able to see the real deal in terms of what intervention and public protection actually means. I expect that by now many of those staff featured in the programme will be a tad weary of the accolades that have been flying their way; but their contribution to the programme surely epitomised the dedication and commitment that our members throughout the service demonstrate each and every working day.
Meanwhile in Cafcass
Whilst our Family Court Section members are not quite facing the potential meltdown scenario that Transforming Rehabilitation poses, we are at that time of the year when we wait with baited breath to see what the operational budget will be for the coming 12 months.
Put simply, its' about damage limitation with Cafcass senior management and ourselves trying to make representations to the Department for Education and its Ministers to make sensible decisions about resources. The withdrawal of legal aid and the still huge flow of private and public casework can only mean more pressure on practitioners, so a huge budget cut will spell more trouble.
The FCS Negotiating Committee will be monitoring the situation closely and further reports will follow as soon as there is more news.
The next six months
Is a long time in the world of politics and our members will decide (by way of a new General Secretary selection process) as to who will take us forward beyond that period. Whether or not that is me, you should know that I will give my all in trying to progress our members agenda with the same determination since being appointed as Assistant General Secretary to Napo some four and a half years ago. Thanks for logging in; and do make a habit of it won't you?
A message from Tom Rendon & Lisa Robinson, National Co-Chairs
You all will have been informed by now that following a difficult employment tribunal, Jonathan Ledger has decided not to re-apply for his job as our General Secretary and his employment has now ceased with Napo.
Lisa and I have been pleased to announce that Ian Lawrence has been appointed as Acting General Secretary until the substantive post is advertised and filled.
The last month has been an uncertain one for members and we thank you for your continued support. Members have organised a strong presence at the consultation meetings and the campaigning strategy is in full swing,. Check out the news feed, campaign blog, twitter @Napo_News for more information. Members will also receive campaign bulletins detailing all of the work currently going on and how you can get involved.
We are proud that on Monday 4th February 2013, Napo's NEC members voted unanimously in favour of considering industrial action as part of our campaign. While we will work constructively with the government in the consulation, they need to know that we are not willing to see 70% privatisation without a fight.
Lisa and I have been "care-taking" the General Secretary Blog over the past few weeks and will now hand over to Ian for future updates. Watch this space.
Best wishes to all.
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