As we always have to make clear when approaching the mainstream political parties at General Elections, Napo is an independent Trade Union and Professional Association whose constitution prevents us aligning ourselves with any political party.
That said, we are entitled to ask important questions of those who seek to govern us and thats why we have finalised our 'Manifesto Asks' this week. This has gone across to the various political strategists in the hope that their responses will help our members to decide which party will do most to address the issues that matter.
As we say in our opening statemets, it has been well documented that the justice system is in meltdown with huge problems across its component parts. In probation we have the ongoing failure of the so-called rehabilitation revolution with many private providers in serious operational and financial difficulties, due to a combination of dodgy contracts and unsafe operating models and incompetent profiling of staffing needs. In the Family Court Service many of our members are at breaking point as workloads have become dangerously high. Prisons are in chaos (when have they not been) with levels of violence and self-harm seemingly beyond control and where, no matter how much money is thrown at the problem, staff are leaving in droves.
The full document can be seen here and we will publish any responses we receive.
PCCs have eyes on CRCs
As suggested in the manifesto demands, the notion that failing CRCs might be brought under the control of Police and Crime Commissioners or the increasing number of Metropolitan Mayors especially London is no longer a just fanciful concept.
Its clear from the intel reaching me that overtures are being made by a number of PCCs to explore if they might offer an escape route to CRC owners who may be at the end of their commercial tether or looking to find an honorable escape route.
There is nothing more substantial than that to report at the moment, but it introduces a new dynamic to the post-TR landscape which the new Secretary of State post-June the 8th would be wise to look at seriously.
Workload pressures and their impact are a huge issue for all members
I have just returned from a visit to Napo PBNI members in Belfast where Ranjit Singh and I also had a series of meetings with our sister union NIPSA, the Board's Chief Executive Cheryl Lamont and her senior management team Gillian Robinson and Paul McIlwaine.
It was a pleasure and privilege to be able to spend valuable time discussing our members concerns and to explain our approach to the many problems that they face. These are not being helped by the current political uncertainties following the collapse of the Assembly and the parlous financial position which is in turn creating inertia in important decisions about paying up on the incremental progression that is a contractual entitlement for our members.
We will do all we can to find common cause with senior PBNI management to address this, and a joint approach will also be needed in finding a strategy to the alarming sickness absence figures that have just been reported across the workforce.
This will need sensitive and careful handling and some joint reserach into the underlying causes. The initial response from Cheryl and her team to our suggestion here has been very encouraging.
When enough is enough
As you will all know there have been a series of problems with the Shared Service division in terms of pay and pensions over a long period. One of the latest has been the diabolical mistreatment of PSO starters who have gone weeks without any sign of a salary payment.
Here's a typical example from one of our newest members as to what has been going on:
I started as a PSO in March and have still not received any pay. I have been contacting the recruitment services every day to find out when I will be paid but no one seems to know. At first there were delays with my security vetting but I've had all of this confirmed now and they keep saying I "should have received a call" but no one has been in contact. I received my offer of appointment contract and new starter form in April and returned this first thing in the morning. I am being told daily by SSCL that someone will "chase it up" and contact me within the day with an update but, again, I have received no contact so I am continuing to call daily to be told again that they will chase it up. I am going into my 8th week here and I do not have any money in my account - at the moment I am having to loan money from family members to get to work and pay for food and bills. I am not sure how much longer I am going to be able to do this for and I feel like I am not getting anywhere. I have tried escalating this repeatedly but with no result.
In Gravesend the other week we saw a remarkable show of solidarity for another member in similar circumstances when colleagues (including non-members I understand) spontaneously walked off the premises at lunchtime in abject disgust. I totally get where they were coming from and following this it was a relief to hear that the pay problem was resolved.
Family Court Professional Conference for all and Women in Napo
Here you can find full information for the Family Court Conference in June. Cafcass have kindly supported this professional development opportunity by paying the travel of FCS members.
Given the subject matter I am pleased to pass on a message from FCS Chair Olivia Fitch that this conference is open to all Napo members, and as you will see from the details about the Women in Napo Conference at the same venue, it provides our women members with an opportunity to attend both events.
Why PR should be in the Labour Manifesto
Members will be aware that Napo doesn't currently have a mandate to specifically support the campaign to introduce proportional representation (PR) but as I have reported to AGM and the NEC, Napo seconded a motion at a previous TUC which called for a debate on the issue through affiliates. I have played a part in that process and not surprisngly I am often lobbied for us to nail our colours to a particular PR mast.
I am unable to do that until otherwise instructed by members, but meanwhile I am happy to pass on a communication from 'make votes matter' in case it is of interest to our members.
We have some news and two requests.
I would like to invite you to take a look at our new report, co-produced with the Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform, The Many, Not the Few - Proportional Representation and Labour in the 21st Century<https://www.makevotesmatter.org.uk/labour4pr>. The foreword was signed by various MPs including the Shadow Minister for Voter Engagement and Youth Affairs, Cat Smith. We released it on Thursday and it was immediately covered in the media<http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/proportional-representation-electoral-reform-pr-labour-manifesto-jeremy-corbyn-a7715786.html>.
We believe it is critical for Labour and the left in general that a commitment to Proportional Representation (PR) is made in the Labour manifesto. Better democracy is the key to creating a country for the many, not the few. Anything you can do to spread this message and have it heard by the right people would be very welcome.
Some of the key findings of the report are as follow:
* At least 80% of OECD nations use some form of PR; this percentage is growing over time.
* PR enables better gender and BAME representation in politics: every country with more than 40% women in its main legislature uses PR.
* Countries with proportional systems experience higher turnout and political engagement, and the world’s best performing democracies all use PR.
* PR enables progressive politics. Evidence shows that First Past the Post countries tend have right wing governments for most of the time, while PR tends to produce more progressive, left-leaning governments.
* In the UK, a majority voted for parties to the left of the Conservatives in thirteen of the last sixteen UK General Elections, yet we have had Conservative majority governments most of this time.
* PR will enable us to build a good society: evidence suggests a causal relationship between proportional voting systems and many progressive and socialist outcomes.
* There is a causal link between PR voting systems and low income inequality.
* Countries with PR are more likely to be welfare states, commit almost 5% more to social expenditure, have higher scores on metrics of human development, and a more equitable distribution of public goods.
* Countries with PR have better environmental protections and more effective action on climate change.
* Proportional democracies outperform majoritarian democracies when it comes to decisiveness and long-term policy-making.
* Democracies with First Past the Post are significantly more likely to go to war than those with PR.
You might also be interested to see the results of our new poll about PR<https://www.makevotesmatter.org.uk/news/2017/5/5/new-poll-finds-overwhelming-support-for-proportional-representation> - the highlight relevant to the Labour manifesto is that 76% of Labour voters said they would support a commitment by the Labour Party to change the voting system so that seats match votes - only 5% opposed this.
Finally, if you haven't already, I'd like to invite you to sign our open letter to Corbyn and May<https://docs.google.com/document/d/15QCR0njFc6qb9iSuKLo3MT1vdW0WqTDJOl0anP41_5w/edit>. It's already been signed by all the opposition parties aside from Labour, various Labour MPs, public figures and organisations, along with tens of thousands of other people.