Ministers making it personal now

Trips to 102 Petty France Street, the imposing and hermetically sealed headquarters of the MoJ are a bit like a journey into the modern day equivalent of ‘Castle Greyskull’ (as in Masters of the Universe). That said, and notwithstanding the pressures on everyone which can occasionally make engagement difficult, it’s fair to say that the majority of the people that we meet there tend to be as polite and professional as possible.

I have to report that my suspicions about just how much Napo has rattled Mr Grayling, and now it seems his recently appointed Prisons and Rehabilitation Minister Andrew Selous, have crystallised into certainty. The demeanour displayed by Mr Selous on our arrival at his office last Thursday (see BR 112/14 for a summary of what transpired) made it clear that his priorities obviously lay elsewhere on the day.

I was not really surprised that Andrew chose to try and censure us for our input into recent media coverage of an SFO homicide incident and the suicides of two serving probation staff; and of course his claim that the coverage had put him in an invidious situation in terms of attending our AGM was spurious nonsense, but he isn’t coming, and now we know (see below) that he is acting under orders.

In terms of his whinge about the unwelcome media attention, I responded by making it clear that I was totally comfortable with the dignity and respect that we had offered in our contributions to the media in relation to these tragic incidents. I also asked whether he had heard, as we have, of two more SFO’s that have occurred since then. I did not get a reply.

It was not just me by the way; as GMB’S David Walton was clearly incensed enough to write an excoriating letter afterwards to the Minister about his handling of our first encounter.

Grayling loses the plot

I have just heard from Tania Bassett who spoke at the New Statesmen fringe at the Tory conference in Birmingham yesterday, where she received excellent feedback from a packed audience. The meeting was also attended by Napo members from London and Staffordshire West Midlands.

No one from the Tory party attended which is by all accounts unheard of. However, Dave Adams (Napo West Mercia and Warwickshire) and Tania bumped into Grayling later that afternoon and asked him why no one came to the meeting ‘as it wasted a missed opportunity.’ He simply replied that 'time would tell' and walked off.

Having attended another fringe where Mr Selous repeated his assertion that ‘Probation staff are excited by the prospect of TR’ and that disabled people work harder because they are grateful to have a job’, our intrepid Campaigns, Press and Parliament Official then attended the Conservative Lawyers Society reception in the evening. Tania says: I didn't ‘gate-crash’ as the Criminal Bar Association invited me. I was surprised when I arrived at the same time as Grayling. Not one to miss an opportunity I approached him saying: "Mr Grayling, twice in one day that must be a record for Napo". He asked if I was a lawyer (think he was very surprised to see me there). I then said that it was a shame that no one attended the morning fringe meeting and that I thought it would be useful for us to have a proper dialogue with him about our concerns.

His response, whilst restrained, was still clearly very angry, as in: "Napo has behaved very immaturely, histrionically and reactively which has upset staff and is wholly unacceptable". I said that we had simply responded to press enquiries. He replied: "I'm happy to talk to other unions but I won't engage with Napo until it can behave like a mature union"
Since Mr Grayling never asked for his comments to be ‘off record’ I am more than happy to share them with readers.

Write to me if you agree with TR?

The other issue which featured prominently in our meeting with Andrew Selous was the validity of the Napo/UNISON staff survey which we published on the day of the brilliant Parliamentary Lobby and Rally. Among other things it showed that 98% of respondents had no confidence in Grayling and that 55% of respondents wanted to leave the service.

Ministers have been claiming that this is unrepresentative of the many practitioners they have spoken to on their travels who are embracing change positively, and are kind of excited by it all. If that is one of you out there then please contact me and confirm the Ministers somewhat extravagant claims. I could say that the Ministers response to our survey was a tad immature and histrionic but I won’t.

A not very nice NNC

Mike McClelland has issued a TR update this week (BR117/14) which summarises the various negotiations that are taking place with NOMS and the Unions at the TR Consultative Forum, the Measures meetings and the Probation Consultative Forum.

I will refrain from giving you a blow by blow account of last Fridays meeting of the National Negotiating Council, but to say it was the worst I have ever attended during my time with Napo will give you a bit of a clue as to how it went.

Unfortunately, there seems to be a complete disconnect between the agreed aims and objectives of this group to maintain a semblance of order in the national and local industrial relations machinery, and the NOMS/MOJ corporate agenda.

Our elected Negotiating Committee Reps told it like it is in terms of the increasingly negative approach they are encountering from NPS and CRC management in the areas of facilities, cross representation across the divide and the vindictive refusal to grant even one day’s paid development time for practitioners seeking to attend the Napo AGM. So much for the masses of goodwill that staff have shown you during this TR disaster.

Unfortunately, the catalyst for all of this and the fractious exchanges which inevitably followed was the somewhat important issue of why Joint Secretarial Circulars had been issued one week and then clearly undermined the next, by missives from NOMS high command, that had not even been seen by the unions. It all leaves a rather bad taste and the portents for the future, if or when CRC share sale occurs do not bode well. As I pointed out at the meeting, too many people are trying to do the private sectors dirty work for them in advance.

If this blatant disregard for national agreements continues then it’s likely that the unions will seek ACAS intervention.

Spirits lifted by an excellent Epsom Rally

At the end a tough week which had started well with our foray to the Labour Party conference last Monday (which is reported elsewhere in Napo News online), where we ensured that Napo’s campaign received good profile amongst Delegates and visitors to the fringe conferences, we were in need of a boost..

Last weekend, Epsom saw a lot more excitement than it usually does during Saturday shopping when nearly a hundred members from Napo Kent, Surrey and Sussex and Napo London, together with GMB and Unison supporters descended on this pleasant Surrey town. 

A great report from Hardeep Matharu follows, and I would like to express my appreciation to all those who organised this and took part as well as the constituents of Epsom who showed respect and tolerance and actually engaged with us. Something of a contrast to the current mind-set of their Member of Parliament.

Blog type: 
General Secretary's Blog