Yesterdays meeting between Sodexo bosses and the probation unions which was diplomatically described in the joint statement that followed as a 'full and frank' discussion, paved the way for an announcement that will be issued formally tomorrow morning by CRC Chiefs. This confirms our expectation that Sodexo have signalled a pause to the job cuts programme pending further considerations and their upcoming meeting with the MoJ contractor.
We made our position clear this week that the magnitude of the 600 job reductions are nothing short of madness and have posited some awkward questions that will need to be confirmed by someone about whether these plans were part of Sodexo's contract bid. If they were, then why would anyone who gave a jot about service provision and public safety sign them off as acceptable? And if they have been decided upon subsequently, why have the contractors not approached the Secretary of State for dispensation to make them?
Leaving aside the terms of the staff protections and the entitlements to Enhanced Voluntary Redundancy (and the size of the payouts to former Trust Chiefs which attracted some interest from the Sunday Times last weekend), the notion that within the Sodexo contract package area there were 600 pre-TR jobs that were effectively an unnecessary drain on the taxpayer is nothing short of outrageous. We heard much yesterday about the so called 'steady state' (of staffing) that Sodexo are seeking to achieve as information confirms our fears that the ICT platform to link up with N-Delius is not going to be ready until some time next year and that the desperate attempts to create a 'work around' are reckoned by the specialists who know about these things to be unreliable to say the least. Add to the mix the uncertainties around estate provision for creating new service locations and the backtracking we saw yesterday about exactly when biometric kiosks are actually going to be introduced and it all points to the disaster that we have long been predicting.
Given that these were key issues in our pre-TR campaign, one might reasonably expect that Sodexo would have exercised their due diligence a bit more diligently before their clumsy and morale sapping announcements with some quite appalling examples of communications that are either misleading or inaccurate and one which has caused us to register a dispute to the joint Secretary at last weeks NNC meeting.
That Data Room again
Not for the first time (and certainly not the last I am sure) we heard a great deal yesterday about the efficacy and content of the information made available to bidders before the contracts were signed in the pre-election haste that we all know was the real driver for TR.
So the blame game that we predicted has started; and the discussions between Sodexo and other bidders about the terms payable for EVR, and how they are going to bridge the gap between expected service provision and the failure of some of them to sign up the requisite second tier providers as 'Through The Gate' responsibilities loom large on the 1st May' ought to be very interesting.
As you would expect we have fully briefed politicians about these developments, and while it is difficult to secure as much media coverage as we would like during an election campaign that is focused on anything but law and justice, be sure that in the event of a different colour administration being returned, we will be knocking on doors very loudly.
The announcement by Sodexo certainly does not represent a victory, but we have been able to convince them of the need to signal a welcome respite in advance of the talks referred to above. Napo's position is that we do not believe the proposed job cuts are necessary or safe, but if some losses are unavoidable they must be on the terms agreed within the national agreements and replicated within the service level contracts. It is morally indefensible to offer staff lesser terms for leaving than those that their colleagues received in tranches 1 and 2 of the early departure schemes.
More news as soon as it becomes available.