A Dark Day

The following is essentially the same content as appeared in my message to members last night but today, of all days, I cannot think that there is anything additional to say

Today represents a dark day in the history of the Probation Service. The fragmentation of a public institution that, over the course of 106 years, has helped to turn lives around and safeguarded local communities in a way that your predecessors originally intended and would have been proud of.

I hope that you will feel able to join in the planned lunchtime leafleting demonstrations alongside Unison members to tell the public just what this all means

The cynical destruction of evidence based practice on the high altar of privatisation by Justice Secretary Chris Grayling is symptomatic of the values of a Conservative Party that thinks it knows the price of everything but in truth has no idea about the value of anything. It has also been aided and abetted by a Libdem Party that has now seemingly lost all sense of direction and moral fibre.

Down but not out

Since the announcement in May 2013 of the so called Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) agenda, your Union has led the way in the fight to defend your jobs and profession. Over the course of the last 12 months Napo members have taken two sets of strike action, worked to contracted hours, interacted with the local communities in which they live and work and have helped us massively in our efforts to engage the wider media and to try and change the minds of politicians and opinion formers within and beyond the Criminal Justice System.

I appreciate that there are Napo members who have questioned whether we should have done more. In an open and transparent organisation like ours that’s understandable and we should rightly be accountable to those whom you elect to undertake that role. It’s always difficult to strike a balance in ensuring that all members feel represented. Over the next few months it’s more important than ever that we present ourselves as the inclusive union that we are, where all members stand together in solidarity. The government rhetoric about the great divide that they have created in probation will not divide us.

No, we were not able to prevent the staff split, but let’s not forget that Grayling wanted this implemented last autumn. No, the industrial action and massive sacrifices made by so many of you has not caused the collapse of TR – and it was never claimed that it would do so; but it has helped to keep this reckless social experiment in the public eye and has helped Napo to negotiate and secure important safeguards to protect your terms and conditions whether you find yourself in the NPS or a CRC. And forget the myth being peddled by some outsiders that Napo cannot represent our members in the CRC’s. We will be there for you now and in the future that I can promise you.

Nevertheless, TR has been (and is) a dreadful and demoralising experience for our members and it is entirely understandable that some of you feel like venting your anger. Napo stands for positive trade union and professional values, and that’s why Napo will continue to defend them. .

We will continue to issue guidance to you to try and help whenever we can as evidenced by the Branch Circular we issued yesterady about working across the NPS/CRC divide.

The way ahead

The ‘train crash’ that you are seeing unfold before you is every bit as bad (and as we can see from the Campaign Inbox) even worse than Napo predicted. That’s why the National Executive Committee at its last meeting gave its unanimous backing for our robust and updated Campaign plan that comprises five key areas of strategic activity:

  • Legal (Where the NEC has given its authority to keep the door open for the possibility of a new route for a judicial review. I will let you know more when I can)
  • Parliamentary (As we increase our contacts with MP’s as a result of the excellent Napo Parliamentary Bulletins that we are issuing weekly).
  • Media (Where we are seeking to exploit all possibilities in what is a tremendously competitive environment in terms of opportunities to get our message across and our weekly campaign bulletins to let you know what has been going on)
  • Industrial (As we consider the next steps and a renewed and very real prospect of a combined Napo/Unison/GMB national dispute on which I am currently engaged in talks about with our sister unions)
  • Negotiations (Where we continue to challenge the corrupt share sale process and expose the real Omni shambles of TR to prospective bidders.)

Progress will, as always, be reported to the NEC and the wider membership through regular mail outs and we will be as open as we can about what we have done and what we have tried to do.

Compared to this time last year, Napo is much better equipped to step up our campaign as we approach the next two critical phases ahead of us, namely the period from 1st June to the intended CRC share sale (if or when that happens), and beyond that the run up to next year’s General Election.

Finally, it’s worth remembering that Napo has never had to face such a challenge at any time in our illustrious history; so there is no ‘kite mark’ to measure ourselves against, and no magic formula to simply make this tremendous threat to our future just simply disappear.

Whatever else happens over the next 12 months, we will all need to pull together, to recognise the different skills that all of us will bring to the struggle ahead and continue to work collectively just as we have done in all the years that Napo has existed. We will do so with courage and resolve in the face of a Coalition Government that has totally lost whatever remained of its moral compass, and those who want to buy your jobs and destroy your terms and conditions. 

Napo members have proven that they have what it takes, and that’s why this fight will continue. 


Blog type: 
General Secretary's Blog