This farce looks set to run

Our talks with Sodexo on Monday following their announcement of 600 intended job losses and their disingenuous stance on EVR were not exactly convivial, but we were at least able to reach agreement on the need for them to go back to their Executive and think again. We were subsequently expecting another joint statement to indicate that the contractor had agreed to pause their controversial redundancy programme, but this could not be cleared by their high command in time for further discussion, and as I indicated in my last posting this was announced by CRC Chiefs the following day. On the back of Sodexo’s woeful handling of communications, we now have two registered disputes to the NNC Joint Secretaries from South Yorkshire and Northumberland which we will seek to progress at the earliest opportunity.  

Further to our meeting with the company, we have today sent another letter to the Company urging them to halt the TUPE exercise that they have embarked upon to relocate staff into their shared services division in Salford. As far as we are concerned this exercise cannot be seen in isolation from the substantive issue about the options that ought to be available to staff if voluntary redundancy becomes an option. Click here for BR 37/2015 with attachment MS letter

Given the support of no less Michael Spurr, we now expect Sodexo to seriously reflect on their plans in the knowledge that they have a moral responsibility to treat people equally. Moreover, we maintain our principled opposition to the cuts and we are especially interested to understand how they seriously believe that they can do a better job delivering management and rehabilitation services with low and medium risk clients than the pre-TR probation service, minus 600 staff. Even more worrying is that the unions were told that the cuts are planned to be implemented before the biometric reporting kiosks are in place sometime into 2016.

That revelation made a few jaws drop at yesterday’s highly charged ’Vote for Justice' rally in Central Hall, where I was grateful to be invited to join an illustrious list of speakers as we debated Graylings shambolic stewardship of the Ministry of Justice and mapped out the sorts of things that we would want to see from a new government.

Two things were universally agreed by all present: that the outsourcing of Probation and the assault on legal aid represent the most cynical and damaging assault on the criminal Justice system in all of its history. The second, is that the performance of the outgoing Secretary of State for Justice has been the most calamitous in the history of the UK.

Supreme irony

I doubt if the architects of TR and those who shoved it through to meet the election timetable will have factored in the possibility of an unholy row between seller and purchaser over the way in which they intend to treat with their staff.

In our detailed report in the week about the action we have taken in response to Sodexo’s proposed job cuts and redundancies (see BR 35/2015) the unions made it plain that we believe that there is something seriously amiss about what Sodexo said in their contract bid and what they actually meant. For example: if they did reveal that they intended to shed 600 staff so soon after the ink had dried, did they actually tell anyone that they never intended to pay EVR?  Which leads to at least one other question: did anyone think to ask them?

But for now the focus is on the interpretation of the National Staff Transfer protections that we agreed with Jeremy Wright in late 2014, and the issue of entitlement to EVR if redundancies are absolutely necessary during the lifetime of the CRC contracts. There were a few wry smiles at the lawyers rally when I mentioned the prospect of a legal wrangle between the parties of a type not seen since Dickens (albeit fictional) account of Jarndyce v Jarndyce (Ref: Bleak House).

I gather at least one CRC chief intends to go running to Queens Counsel to see how many brownie points they can score with their new bosses over this issue. I reckon they ought to save the taxpayer some money and await the next instalment in this Kafkaesque farce that someone will probably think about selling tickets to.

Napo - the voice of its members in Probation and Family Courts.

Enjoy the weekend.

Blog type: 
General Secretary's Blog