Thames Valley

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  Through the Streets of Reading
This was interesting. We had some negative comments but mostly it was very positive. Bernard was our cheer organiser.

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    Posted By: RobbieBourget @ 31/03/2014 07:20 PM     General     Comments (0)  

  Day one of the Strike. Were you there?
A few of the photos from the first day of action.

Edited: 31/03/2014 at 07:12 PM by RobbieBourget

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    Posted By: RobbieBourget @ 31/03/2014 07:00 PM     General     Comments (0)  

  Why are we on Strike again?
First, let me say sorry for not posting in such a long while. I have been having a hectic time and out of the office more often than in.

But, back to this latest strike action. Why you ask are we doing this? What's the point?

Well, some of the executive of the branch have been providing their answers.
"I will strike in March/April because coordinated action is the most important principle in a collective trade organisation. Napo is not an insurance policy that customers buy - it is a professional association that collectively negotiates on behalf of its members and requires leverage to do so. You won't read it on the Intranet but this process is a PART of neo-liberal economics; this is not rebellious militantism - If any organisation changes pre-contracted pension benefits, working conditions and job descriptions without proper consultation and careful consideration then employees have a right, in this country, to legitimately withdraw their labour."
Andrew Lesnik, Oxford
"It's forty years ago this year since I first set foot in a Probation Office, at Perry Barr, in what is now West Mids (it still exists, miraculously...). I was then a fresh faced undergraduate, doing a placement as part of my studies. I recognised straight away that Probation staff were, and are, a special group of people, doing a difficult job, with humour and with kindness.

Over the course of my working life, I have seen many changes for the better, notably that Domestic Abuse is now recognised as criminal behaviour; and our work with sex offenders. What has saddened me has been to see how our Service has become an increasingly politicised football. A Labour government wants to reduce prison populations? Yeah, we'll manage them on licence. Another politician wants to criticise us as 'not fit for purpose' when something goes wrong on his watch? We'll take that one too. In the middle of incessant change, we have carried on doing our jobs, making a difference, and not whingeing too much...

But the TR agenda is in a different league to anything which has gone before. This cynical, political, non evidence based programme is driving a wedge into the heart of our Service. Our working relationships with our colleagues within the Service, and our partner agencies, are being trashed. Our teams are being dismantled, with inevitable consequences in terms of stress, ill feeling, and attrition of staff. People whom we supervise are at risk from a fragmented Service. We spend time devising new names for the job, which essentially has remained the same for the forty years that I have worked in this role.

I don't know how much impact going on strike for a day and a half will make - it cheers me that Jeremy Wright, the Under Secretary at the Home Office, thinks we are being 'unhelpful' (politician speak for 'why can't the plebs just put up and shut up?') But I can't do nothing, and sit back and watch this travesty of social policy being bulldozed through by the most shameful government it has been my misfortune to experience.

I know it is a tough call to on strike - we all need every penny currently, we don't like to feel we are letting down our colleagues, and, even more, the people whom we supervise. The alternative is to do nothing, and, for me, that is not an option. The job of being a Probation Officer, or a Probation Services Officer, is a privilege and a responsibility. We know that what we do makes a difference. So let's demonstrate that - and our commitment to what we do - by taking strike action, and showing that we won't take TR without a fight.

Here endeth the lesson....."

Anne Burrell, Banbury Office

My reason for striking? Well, if we don't keep fighting this idealogical change to our service that the Conservative and Mr Grayling are trying to ram through, we are acquiesing, accepting that *we* are not the BEST people to do this job, approving the lowering of service standards, permitting the decline of our professional values, and letting down all the men and women who come through our doors needing our help. And I just cannot agree all of that. We are the best people for this job. We have the training, the professionalism and the belief in people's ability to change.

Some people will say we took these jobs for the money, the pension and the security of a public service job. And I cannot argue that it's good to be paid, have a good pension and not worry about the job disappearing suddenly. But this is not why any of us stay in these jobs. The money is not massive and many of us could do better elsewhere. We work in Probation because we believe in change, because we want to help others to rejoin the society that they have not felt part of, because we want to help our community to be safer. Most of the time, the rewards are miniscule. We know that it will be years, sometimes, before the person we are supervising will make the changes that are needed/wanted. But, when they do, that, that is the pay-off. That is the moment when elation strikes and we know that we have been part of a major change for the better. Meeting them on the street and hearing their successes makes all the extra hours, hard work, uncertainties, frustrations worthwhile. All the recalls, breaches and warning letters fade away from memory and you see a whole person, able to live in the society around them.

I don't believe that this will still be achievable within the new NPS or CRC. Standards will go down, workloads up. This change has not been considered properly, it hasn't been tested and there is no evidence it will work. It is very radical and may be almost impossible to recover from if it fails. This is why I will strike. The public and the people we supervise deserve no less.

Edited: 31/03/2014 at 07:22 PM by RobbieBourget

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    Posted By: RobbieBourget @ 14/03/2014 09:56 AM     General     Comments (0)  

Well, you will all know that they have an agreement on the framework for the staff split and it shows the hard work that our union officers and officials have put in. Also the hard work of the employers' side because they wanted to agree this with us much sooner than the MoJ permitted. Congratulations to both parties.

But, what does this mean for you?

Well. The Local disputes are settled but you can still and should still file a grievance over the allocation/selection/expression of interest matter. There are still no job descriptions and the infrastructures of the two parts are still a mystery to all.

The National Dispute remains, so that means continuing to work your contracted hours. I hope you are all managing okay with this. I know it's tough but it is important. The MoJ is trying to convince bidders that they can take over a viable service in which the work gets done by the few of us that are here, but that means splitting us further and increasing our workloads without increasing our numbers. Let's be honest, we are all struggling now so an increase of any sort could be the straw that breaks the camel's back. Talk to one of your union officials locally if you are finding keeping to your hours difficult. We can provide support.

Oh, and when the letters come out with your "final" allocation, file your appeal. Remember one of the reasons is that the selection was made on insufficient information, which I am pretty sure will be the case across the board. Another is that you personally have been discriminated against due to a protected aspect. If you're not sure, talk to us, starting with Bernard Morris.

Meantime the Branch hopes you have a good holiday season and that you can not spend too much time worrying about the future.

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    Posted By: RobbieBourget @ 24/12/2013 02:35 PM     General     Comments (0)  

  Work to Contracted Hours - What does this mean?
I expect there will be guidance out by tomorrow but, from past experience:

    If you do a late night, you come in late that day or late the next morning.
    Do not penalise your clientele: see them for as long as you would normally, finish PSRs in a timely fashion.
    If you don't have time to enter your contact notes in nDelius, at least ensure you have written notes and signed appointment slips.
    All non-urgent matters (and, yes, we have those) will have to slide - possibly forever.
    If you cannot do everything, you go to your manager to have them tell you what has the highest priority and work in that specific order.

What could this look like?

10 am you go to see a punter. You make notes during the meeting of what is covered and what he/she will do and what you will do. You attach your copy of the signed appointment slip. You put it all aside for *in case* you actually have time during your contracted hours. If not, you have a written record.

11 am you start your PSR. You do not take calls that are non-urgent until you have completed this work.

12:00 noon, a CA tells you that a second/third/fourth OASys review is due. You can tell by your progress on the PSR that you cannot finish both today. You e-mail your manager to state that, in view of contracted hours, you will not be doing the review in order to ensure that the more important PSR is done. You tag a note to be entered in nDelius *when* you have time. You continue with PSR.

2 pm another appointment is in, you do as with the first.

3 pm back to the PSR.

5:30 pm arrives. You e-mail you manager with the status of the PSR (mostly, partly, all or whatever done) and YOU GO HOME!

Let's be honest, this is going to be very tough. So, you need to be buddies and support all the other staff trying to do this as well.

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    Posted By: RobbieBourget @ 12/11/2013 09:37 PM     General     Comments (0)  

  Why Probation Public versus Probation Private Sector?
Mr Grayling thinks we are complacent and want to keep the status quo, which includes very high reoffending rates amongst under 12 month custodially sentenced individuals. Yes, I know we don't supervise this group, but, would they be better with the private sector. Mr Grayling says it is only common sense. He speaks about mentors meeting them at the prison gate and taking them to their accommodation before helping them to find work. Sounds brilliant, doesn't it?

But. There is no evidence that there are a) enough mentors available to meet every prisoner leaving custody, b) accommodation available for everyone leaving custody, or c) that the private sector actually has the expertise to deliver this. Some voluntary charitable groups have some capacity to do parts of this, such as meeting people at the prison gate. In some areas, such as London, there are numerous hostels that will take individuals as they come out of custody. And we have had the evidence of several private firms' lack of expertise in handling the roles that they currently do, which must raise doubts about their ability to take on new roles.

On the other hand. There is evidence that Probation work effectively with local voluntary agencies to house individuals and to assist them into work. Probation have reduced reoffending rates for those using our services year on year. We have innovated new ways of working to achieve our goals and those set by the centre. We have trialed all new ideas to ensure there was evidence that it worked. In the past, when there were fewer cases and more time permitted, Probation would pick up vulnerable individuals from prison and bring them back to their local areas. We still work with MAPPA to arrange this kind of service in high risk cases and IOM cases.

So, I would say the reason it should be the public service Probation that is kept is because a) we will work with outside agencies to obtain services for our clientele, b) we are effective and innovative, and c) it will cause the least disruption to services that presently exist to simply add to what we deliver versus giving both new cases and old cases to someone else.

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    Posted By: RobbieBourget @ 07/11/2013 12:12 PM     General     Comments (0)  

  First Photos - Oxford Rally
Some Pictures from the Oxford Rally on 04/11/2013

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    Posted By: RobbieBourget @ 06/11/2013 02:50 PM     General     Comments (0)  

  Successful Strike in Thames Valley

Thanks to everyone for taking the time to show support for the need to prevent privatisation. We had a great Rally in Oxford and it was fantastic to see so many of our offices represented, including 2 colleagues seconded to the prison service and all three counties having people there.

I will try to post some photos tonight but if you have any that weren't tweeted or put on Facebook, send them on to me.

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    Posted By: RobbieBourget @ 06/11/2013 01:25 PM     General     Comments (0)  

  General Guidance on Strike Action - 5-6 November 2013
Napo guidance on Transforming Rehabilitation Trade Dispute and Picketing.

Before the day

The strike should not come as a surprise to your members as you will have already held workplace meetings, issued local newsletters, circulated Napo campaign bulletins and undertaken other work to ensure that the maximum number of members have voted yes to both questions in the ballot for industrial action.
Put together a list of all staff in your workplace and make sure that you find some time to talk to each one of them individually if possible.

. Ask them to strike and ask them what they will do on the strike day.

. Ask those committed to striking to speak to their colleagues who may not be so committed. Remember friends and colleagues are more likely to influence them than strangers.

. Ask them to help out on the picket line, explain that it is important for the union to have a public presence outside the workplace on the day and that it will be fun!

. Think about how you will reassure members about striking, particularly if they have been put under pressure by management not to strike.

. Ask non-members to join the union, so that they can strike.

Hold a meeting for all staff

This may have to be in the car park or off-site as management are unlikely to provide facilities - think about doing this at lunchtime or immediately before or after work. You may need to run more than one of these meetings.
Invite non-members and ask them to join (remember to have a supply of application forms).

Management may put staff under pressure not to strike by meeting with them individually and asking them not to strike. Getting to members first and giving advance warning that management will do this and that they have the legal right to strike and need not be intimidated is important in defeating management's tactics.

Materials and preparation

Think about all the things you will need for the day:

. Make contact with your local UNISON reps to advise them about Napo's planned action.

. Identify which workplaces it will be practical to picket.

. How many entrances are there to the workplace?

. Where will you stand? You will need to avoid being on private property. Any planned protests on the employer's property should be discussed with the employer in advance and confirmed in writing.

. What is the minimum number of pickets that you need at your workplace and across the branch to cover each entrance fully?

. Get mobile phone numbers for all those helping out on the picket lines

. Make sure each picket line has official Napo placards and armbands (Resources will be sent to your named contact in the next week).

. How will you encourage members not to go into work?

. Think about what you will say to non-members who attempt to go into work?

. Do you have enough recruitment packs for the picket line?

. Make sure each picket line has some leaflets to give to staff (You will receive leaflets for the general public and for staff with your resources sent to your named contact)

. Think about what will you say to the public?

On the day, make sure that:

. You arrive early, at least 15 minutes before the first person is due to go into work. Remember some people will try to avoid the picket line by arriving especially early.
. Pickets have all the information and materials they need - see above.
. Every entrance to a workplace identified for picketing has a picket line.
. Pickets know what time people will be arriving at each entrance (you may be able to predict times when more workers will arrive).
. Someone can be allocated to get hot drinks at a suitable time.

So, what do you do when you have tried everything, but your colleagues still try to cross the picket line to go into work?

. Try to stop the worker, approach them, make eye contact and try to engage them in a conversation. Remember to be polite and inoffensive at all times

. Don't make it personal, always refer back to the issues

. Your first contact is important, so choose your questions carefully. Ask open questions to provoke responses, such as:
? How do you feel about what the government is doing to the Probation Service?
? What do you think we need to do to win our case?
? Why do you think the government feels it can get away with attacking our terms and conditions?
? Do you know that privatisation will destroy an award winning service?
? Do you agree that government plans to split risk between a National Probation Service and 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies poses serious risks to public safety?

. Some people may say they support the union, but will not strike. Explain that going into work means supporting the government's plans and undermining colleagues and our strike.

. Show them they will make a difference. The government will want to know how many people took action on the day and every striker will count. The more people that take action, the greater the impact and the better the chance we will have of winning our demands

. Some people will say they cannot afford to lose a day's pay. Explain that management/government never give workers something for nothing. Everything we get has to be fought for and this involves making sacrifices now to prevent having to suffer greater losses in the future.

Legal rights
Management cannot prevent peaceful picketing; it is our established legitimate right.

Picketing is not a form of industrial action but is the means by which some forms of industrial action, especially strikes, are made more effective. The statutory immunity for picketing is contained in section 220 (1) of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, which states:

"It is lawful for a person in contemplation or furtherance of a trade dispute to attend at or near his own place of work...for the purpose only of peacefully obtaining or communicating information, or peacefully persuading any person not to work or to abstain from working."

Therefore, picketing is lawful only in these circumstances.

The DTI code of practice PL928, section A, paragraph 2 says: "There is no legal right to picket as such but attendance for the purpose of peaceful picketing has long been recognised as a lawful activity. However the law imposes certain limits on how, where and for what purpose such picketing can be undertaken."

More details are also available on the DTI web site and the guidance is attached to this information:
The code of practice also points out that attendance for the purpose of picketing may only:

. Be undertaken in contemplation of furtherance of a trade dispute
. Be carried out by a person attending at or near his own place of work
. A trade union official (or representative), in addition to attending at or near his own place of work, may also attend at or near the place of work of a member of her/his trade union whom he is accompanying on the picket line and whom s/he represents
. Furthermore the only purpose involved must be peacefully to obtain or communicate information, or peacefully to persuade a person not to work.

Criminal law
Employers rarely use the law but there are circumstances in which the police may instigate a prosecution. This again is rare, but representatives should be aware of the relevant law.

The immunities under employment legislation protect those engaged in lawful picketing from being sued for breach of contract but not against activities such as trespass or other criminal acts. The aspects of criminal law which could apply are obstruction or breach of the peace charges.

These can include unreasonable obstruction of the highway and/or wilful obstruction of a police officer. Under the Public Order Act 1986, individuals may be charged with disorderly conduct, threatening behaviour, riot, violent disorder or affray. But the standard of proof required to convict on these criminal charges would be 'beyond reasonable doubt', a much higher requirement than applies in civil law ('balance of probabilities').

There are four main offences that may be committed by people involved in picketing: use of violence; persistent following; hiding tools; and picketing a person's home.

Furthermore, section 15 of the TULR(C) Act 1992 makes it unlawful for the union to pay an individual's fines for criminal activity or contempt of court.

Conspiracy is another criminal charge, and falls under the Criminal Law Act 1977. Conspiracy involves the agreement by two or more people to pursue a course of action which would necessarily involve the committing of an offence. The penalty for conspiracy cannot be higher than for the offence itself and unlawful civil action in the course of an industrial dispute would not give rise to a conspiracy charge.

General organisation
Our preference is for each picket line to have an appointed picket steward, preferably a Napo representative, who will be in charge of the picket line. Ideally, this person should be contactable by mobile phone. This will help you co-ordinate things locally on the strike day.

All pickets should be aware of the law and understand that picketing must be peaceful and lawful. Members should only picket at or near your place of work. Official pickets should wear some form of identification (i.e. arm bands, badges etc).

There is no legal restriction on the number of people who may picket a workplace entrance or exit except that the number should not be so great that it might cause fear or distress among those seeking to cross. The DTI code of practice suggests that organisers should ensure that, in general, the numbers should not exceed six pickets at each entrance or exit, though this is guidance only and not the law.

Pickets can explain their case to those entering or leaving the picketed premises, and/or ask those within the ballot category not to enter or leave the premises where the dispute is taking place. Pickets are encouraged to be bold and speak to members (and non members) within the ballot, and seek to persuade them to support the strike.
Nevertheless pickets should not physically attempt to stop a person or vehicle from entering an office or site and a person who decided to cross a picket line must be allowed to do so. Courteous but firm communication to people is the means for this, together with the distribution of leaflets or holding banners or placards putting the union's case. Our message to members in the ballot is to support the dispute and not go into work. Our message to non members in the ballot is to join the union (they can sign up on the picket line) and not to go into work.

Always take the opportunity to talk to members of the general public and explain the reasons for the industrial action.

Relationships with the police
The police may well attend or visit a picket line. Always be polite and helpful when they attend - where appropriate introduce them to the picket steward and reassure them that we intend peaceful picketing only. Pickets should co-operate with the police in any requests to keep the street free from obstruction and should obey any instructions regarding the placement or numbers of pickets. Doing so helps respond to any allegations by the employer about unruly pickets.

If you have any further questions on picketing please contact:
Ranjit Singh at or on 07595953989.

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    Posted By: RobbieBourget @ 30/10/2013 11:47 AM     General     Comments (0)  

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