The news that we have picked up about the future prospects on pay from our trade union engagement meetings, and at what was the most depressing briefing session that I have attended in recent years with the MoJ Permanent Secretary, suggests a rough ride ahead.
The government driven pay strategy which has seen the MoJ prioritise the prison reform agenda and the pay of prison service staff while the value of a Probation Officers pay has been devalued by 21% over the last seven years, (Office for National Statistics research) provided another slap in the face for our negotiators when told that the results of the Prison Pay Review Body would have to be published before we could re-establish substantive discussions about probation pay modernisation.
Essentially there are three aspects to the complicated pay agenda:
- The overall Public Sector Pay cap
- 2017 pay
- Longer term pay modernisation
As I reported last week, the TUC affiliated unions across the public sector are being consulted on how they can be part of a wider national campaign against the regressive pay policy that has caused serious a serious drop in living standards since 2010. The Rally and Parliamentary Lobby on 17th October will see the start of this campaign to break the pay cap and I will send you details of how you can get involved.
As for 2017 pay, we have demanded that talks resume with the NPS and unions about what else could be done over and above the contractual 1% pay out made earlier this year. Of course our approach to pay is not solely focused on our NPS members, and our representations to CRC owners has meant that all but 4 CRCs have matched that, and in some cases have approved additional payments with a commitment to return to the table once we know more about the NPS pay position. Obviously we are knocking at the door of the recalcitrant CRCs to pay up now they have had this years WAV funding restored, and I will issue more news on this shortly.
Finally, and despite the huge amount of work that has been put in so far to map out a way forward, probation pay reform has also suffered a knockback as this minority government grapples with a multitude of problems that they deem to be a lot more important than yours.
A struggle lies ahead
In times as difficult as the ones that our members are going through, one harsh fact screams out, and that is: that this government will need to be pushed into a change of course.
Yes Napo will seek to negotiate as we have always done; and yes we don’t seek confrontation in place of an agreement that might lead to our members being treated with the respect and dignity they deserve, but I am saying this loudly and clearly: industrial action is likely to be the only way to force the pace of change. Any trade union is only as strong as its membership and if you want to make the government and senior MoJ management pay attention to our problems then you may need to take the necessary steps to make that happen. That does not come easily to Napo members who quite rightly care deeply about the clients and communities that they serve, but do ask yourselves, when was the last time that being nice got us anywhere?
NEC backs growth strategy for Napo
Pay is just one of the massive list of issues that Napo is trying to tackle as we face a multitude of attacks on our member’s terms, conditions, well-being and rights on collective bargaining.
The post-TR landscape while being predictable in terms of the chaos it has generated, has in itself doubled the demands on Napo’s resources both centrally and locally. Napo is no different to any other trade union in that, as the workforce in the areas we operate in generally gets older, then members retire. In the wake of TR at least 1800 staff have left for a variety of reasons or have taken early departure from their employer. Add to that the fact that many seasoned and highly experienced Napo reps have been among those former staff that departed from the service, and we have had a lot to contend with.
Chris Graylings parting shot to try and ruin Napo financially by removing ‘check off’ failed, in that we are still here and exposing his failings but none of the above has exactly made life easier for us.
These developments have created the most testing challenges that this union has faced at any time in its history. That is why over recent months your National Executive Committee have been considering the direction of our future operating strategy and the steps that we need to take to ensure that we remain as the leading trade union and professional association across the 24 employers we are recognised in for a lot longer yet.
‘Napo - a Strategy for Growth’ will have its formal launch at the AGM in October but at their meeting in London last week, the NEC showed commendable foresight in agreeing to release some initial financial resources (which as always will be under the scrutiny and authority of Napo’s Finance Sub-Committee) to allow us some flexibility in scoping out the potential changes that may help Napo to improve our services and communications, strengthen our hand at the bargaining table for all of our members and, critically, to identify and train a new generation of leaders.
None of this will happen by itself of course, and essentially it comes down to a stark choice between wishing that things might get better or actually showing the courage and leadership to take difficult decisions on the back of positive, practical and well thought out steps to make us more effective and more relevant to our existing and prospective members.
We have embarked on a new strategy for growth and we need all of our members to be part of it.
Box ticking - an unwelcome burden for Cafcass members
Some weeks after we discovered that Cafcass had agreed guidelines with the judiciary on how best use could be made of practitioner’s time, a meeting took place with Anthony Douglas where Dean Rogers and Jay Barlow basically said this was a great idea, but it would have been nice to have been consulted about it.
Jay will no doubt have something more to say on what was a positive meeting. Meanwhile, another hot topic at the moment is the amount of auditing of practitioner’s work in Cafcass. This is often done in a formulaic, box ticking style which many members find demoralising and which according to the terms of a motion to the AGM which I have just seen, undermines their professional judgement and confidence.
Nobody doubts the need for accountability but if this process is causing that much anxiety it must surely be in need of a review?
AGM motions flood in
Speaking of AGM, we have had around 30 motions arrive for inclusion on the AGM order paper.
They will be published shortly once Steering Committee have had a look at them and whichever order members decide they should be debated (ballot arrangements to follow) there is a wide range of interesting and hugely important issues up for discussion.
The Nottingham Conference will be a new look, two day gathering and the first to be held minus the perennially tiresome pre-event speculation as to whether or not we will be quorate following last year’s decision by our members to reduce the minimum attendance ratio.
I have a feeling it’s going to be a bit special.
Have you voted yet?
A long bank holiday weekend offers a great opportunity to dust down that pile of unopened envelopes that has been lying around on the kitchen table, mantelpiece, desk or wherever.
One of those should contain a ballot paper with the hustings of the two candidates standing for the vacant position of National Vice-Chair Finance namely Chas Berry and Keith Stokeld. Whoever emerges first from the contest will take up their position in the new Officer Group at AGM.
All I am able to do is to wish them both good luck and thank them for stepping up, and can I urge all members to take a few minutes to look at what they are saying and to cast your vote.
Hope you have a restful weekend.