Global Law Summit gets a taste of reality

Attendees at this week’s £1700 a head ‘bun fest’ that according to the supporting literature, was organised by the MoJ on behalf of the UK Government to celebrate the origins of the rule of law, but which looked remarkably like a Tory party pre-election gimmick in disguise, had an unexpected and (by the look on many amused faces at the conference centre windows) additional distraction on Monday, as the Justice Alliance Stand Up For Legal Aid event hit town.

The excellent rally outside the House of Commons featured great speeches from a diverse number of contributors. It immediately followed the two day ‘Magna Carta Relay’ down the Thames which Tania Bassett helped to launch on behalf of Napo at Runnymede last Saturday. Pictures of the event and the subsequent march to the QECC with the Grayling puppet in medieval stocks (and one showing Tania sporting some natty headwear to keep out the cold and make a point) are available on the twitter hashtag as follows: #standupforlegalaid

A brilliantly organised initiative and many thanks to the intrepid Matt Foot as well as those Napo members and Napo staff who braved the elements to help make it such a success.

Rifkind and Straw - is there not a bigger point to be made?

Sadly I can’t spare the time today to have the sort of rant that I would have liked about this week’s big story on  MP’s, lobbying and second jobs. What I will say is that irrespective of whether £67k is the right salary for our Parliamentarians, the news today that there are an estimated 1.8 million workers across the UK on zero hour contracts is a damned disgrace which all of them should be ashamed of.

It’s also a more worthy story which ought to have got more airtime than the two MP’s involved deserve. It won’t of course, but we are entitled to ask which of the mainstream party leaders will pledge to abolish zero hours contracts outright if they win the election?

A flying visit to Belfast

I have been fortunate enough to have made a number of visits to Northern Ireland during my career. This week, Ranjit Singh joined me on our trip to Belfast where we had the pleasure of meeting Probation Board (NI) Napo members and their Branch Executive who discussed the Senior Management Team Review outcomes and their approach to the workforce modernisation programme which is to follow it. We were also able to meet with PBNI senior management to discuss their thinking on the situation so far. It was a constructive exchange where both sides acknowledged our respective agendas, but where it was made very clear that we expect a better level of consultation going forward than we have seen hitherto.

The well attended members meeting featured a debate about Napo’s position in relation to the possible ‘yes’ vote for industrial action involving public sector workers in the Province following the ballots being conducted by a number of unions.

Napo are not balloting in Northern Ireland at this juncture because the formal dispute with the NI Government over their version of the austerity agenda was co-ordinated by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions to which we are not affiliated. From the debate at the branch meeting it is clear that there a majority of our members are opposed to the double whammy of cuts that they are facing, but there needs to be further consultation between the Napo branch executive and all members about the strategy that you believe the union should follow in response to it.

Ranjit and I also met with the lead Officer from Nipsa, the largest public sector union whose members sit alongside Napo’s in PBNI, to discuss the ramifications of the PBNI reviews and to explore how we might be able to demonstrate our support for any action that is called on the wider cuts, although we cannot be party to it as we have no legal mandate from our members yet.

Napo PBNI members are urged to have their say on these key issues and Fiona Vaughan, whose tireless efforts on behalf of Napo are massively appreciated, will be pleased to hear from you.

Pay knockback

Last week the Probation unions received the not unexpected rejection from Chris Grayling on our attempts to secure an across the board 1% pay rise to close off the 2014 pay claim. Credit where it is due to Michael Spurr, who was true to his word in engaging with his Minister following our recent representations. Michael has asked me to convey that Mr Grayling wants you to know that, while he is unable to find a way forward he nevertheless very much values the massive contribution that union members have made in support of his reforms.

Contrast the relatively minor sum that would need to be found not to break government pay policy but still stay in line with it, against the several millions spent on useless TR consultants and legal costs opposing our Judicial Review application, and I guess you won’t be taking much by way of comfort from the Ministers appreciative sentiments.

‘Check Off’ - are we heading into another big campaign?

I was certainly not surprised to receive an invitation to all NOMS trade unions to attend a meeting next week which will signal the start of formal consultation over the MoJ’s intention to stop the deduction of union subscriptions from your pay.

We will of course respond to the proposal, but we have already drawn up a contingency plan in the event that our common sense suggestions are rejected, as happened to our sister union PCS some months ago. PCS are already well into their campaign to encourage their members to switch to Direct Debit and we need to be ready for this possible eventuality.

More on this will feature in Napo News shortly and we will also be issuing additional communications to members as we further develop our thinking. Meanwhile, the Napo Officers have mentioned to me that they intend to make the switch to DD as soon as possible and I certanly commend their lead here.

I expect that everyone will have appreciated by now that this latest development is not exactly designed to make Napo’s life easier. My discussions with other General Secretaries who have been monitoring our TR campaign suggests that many outsiders will see this scenario as being somewhat vindictive, but I could not possibly comment.

Next week….NOMS workforce stats/ Cafcass views and outcomes/ employer pension contributions. Enjoy the weekend.

Blog type: 
General Secretary's Blog