For some time now we have been highlighting the appalling impact of the government pay freeze and the lack of cash to support the Probation pay agreement that dates back to 2008. I was not involved in those negotiations which were concluded just before I was appointed as AGS.
As you will hopefully have seen from the regular flow of material that we have been issuing to members, the principal difficulty with a pay structure of this nature is that it was predicated on the basis of cash being readily available to fund the progression system and had not factored in the possibility of a pay freeze which is effectively in its seventh year now.
This week the Office for National Statistics published their annual survey of earnings in the UK Labour Market and it makes for stark reading.
The tables and narrative are a ‘statto’s’ dream, but the key headline is that the pay of Probation Officers has shown a real time decrease of 22% (yes 22%) with comparator occupations in the last 7 years.
So what’s to be done about it?
Winning the propaganda debate is just one part of a successful pay campaign but unfortunately it’s not going to be enough to deliver what is needed. While Napo has been engaged in promising pay discussions it will as usual be down to ministers to sign the cheque, and in the current post-election climate its anyone’s guess whether we will have a government with sufficient longevity for us to reach an agreement with, or that even if there is, they will see the pay of our members as top of the priority list.
That’s why I was especially encouraged at the recent meeting of your National Executive Committee (NEC) to hear a contribution that was reflecting the views of their constituency which clearly favoured the prospect of a ballot for industrial action should negotiations, to which we are certainly fully committed, hit the buffers.
Whilst the election returned the Tories as the largest party with the most seats, this has to be about the most pyrrhic ‘victory’ in British political history. For the clearest message to come from that part of the electorate which actually matters (the majority that did not vote Tory) is that they have had enough with austerity and the lies that are peddled in support of it.
It may be time for Napo members to step up to the plate sooner than we might think.
Superb Family Court Professional Conference
My appreciation to all those involved in organising this as well as the attendees and expert speakers who made yesterday’s event at Yarnfield so successful.
There will be a full report and pictures appearing soon but I wanted to pay tribute to the way in which the conference handled the two hugely topical issues of radicalisation and modern slavery with such sensitivity and professionalism. You did huge credit to your profession and I was delighted to have been able to be there.
Thanks also to Cafcass senior management for supporting and publicising the event
TUC applauds CRC stress survey
Always good to see the work of craft unions such as Napo, given a mention in TUC despatches and here is an extract from this week’s TUC Health and Safety news.
"Staff at a privatised probation company are suffering high levels of stress as a result of intensive, high paced work and unrealistic deadlines, a joint union survey has found.
Napo and UNISON represent staff employed in five Purple Futures Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) owned by Interserve. After privatisation in February 2015, Purple Futures introduced a new operational model that included ‘significant staffing cuts’, the unions say. They add that the changes led to a marked deterioration in working conditions, with occupational stress the top cause of sickness absence. The unions embarked on a survey to support their negotiations with management for improvements to work practices. They say the ‘striking findings’ of the study showed workers were being pressured into undertaking excessive work, over long hours at a high pace. Nine out of ten (89 per cent) respondents said that they often or always have to work very intensively and 79 per cent reported they often or always have to work very fast. Six out of ten (61 per cent) said they often or always have unrealistic time pressures. Almost half of all respondents reported they are unable to take sufficient breaks, are pressured to work long hours and often or always have unachievable deadlines.
Napo and UNISON are now calling on Purple Futures to follow Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidelines and establish a joint working group to oversee the stress identification and management process, and for this group to include adequate trade union representation. They are also calling on the company to “remove the triggers for stress in the workplace and provide a safe system of work for all Purple Futures staff in relation to workload” and to “ensure that individual and group stress risks assessment are completed and reviewed when necessary, and that trade union health and safety reps are involved in the risk assessment process”. They say the company should also “agree with the unions a workload management tool, which provides all staff with the reassurance that their workloads will be set according to strict criteria to protect both staff health and safety and public protection.”
Good work by all involved and many thanks to the excellent response by our Purple Futures CRC members to the survey which, as can be seen, we will now seek to take forward with Interserve at the earliest opportunity.
Dame Glenys sets her sights on Sodexo
It’s quite interesting if not mildly amusing to hear some CRC owners complain that they have been singled out for criticism by HMI Probation in comparison to their competitors. As I see it they are all on the accountability list; it’s just a question of when the inspectorate gets round to your turn.
Here’s the latest on Sodexo and there is a reference among other things to those infernal and hugely discredited interview booths that we have been telling them for ages are unfit for purpose . I do hope that they take note.
“Two features that are allowable within CRC contracts concern me, however. Some service users’ main contact with the CRC will be by telephone when in my view, individuals posing a risk to their families or the public should be supervised more actively. Those who are supervised face-to-face are often seen in open booths. This is not likely to encourage the candid exchanges sometimes necessary, and it does not provide sufficient privacy. I question these two aspects of the model and the funding constraints that encourage them”.
The full report can be found here. http://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprobation/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2017/06/Suffolk-QI.pdf and we will be considering the recommendations.
That Michael Spurr letter on Attendance Management - Can NPS get their act together?
For some time our NPS Reps have been seemingly banging their heads against walls whilst trying to impress upon Divisional contacts that the letters from Michael Spurr to the unions in January and February gives a clear steer to managers about their discretion on whether to invoke trigger points.
Unfortunately it’s becoming increasingly clear that NPS divisions are not reading off the same hymn sheet and, by the look of it, haven’t seen the Michael Spurr letters either. Apparently lines need to be checked before this can happen.
That’s incredible to say the least so while others pontificate let me help cut through the red tape.
Together for Jo Cox
Below is a most moving message from Brendan Cox which I am pleased to reproduce in case you may not have seen it.
‘My wife Jo was murdered last year by a terrorist.
At that time, you pledged to pick up the banner of love that Jo carried.
On the anniversary of her murder later this week, I ask you to join me to celebrate her life by doing what she always did -- bring people together because she passionately believed that we have more in common than that which divides us.
Inspired by Jo, we’ve chosen to mark the anniversary of her murder with community celebrations called ‘The Great Get Together' and at last count, there’s 118,167 events planned across the country. I'd love for Avaazers from across Britain to join in and make it truly huge.’
With hope and determination,
London pulls together again
Another catastrophe hits London. Not terrorism this time, but sheer terror for those involved in the Grenfell House fire. The images of destruction and the still to be confirmed death toll, have filled our screens and made us all ask: why and how this appalling tragedy occurred?
While those questions will have to be answered through the public enquiry, this latest tragedy has again unexpectedly blighted the lives of people who find themselves suffering bereavement, destitution or homelessness or a combination thereof, as they try to come to terms from the loss of loved ones following the events that have occurred in Westminster, Manchester, the Borough and West London.
The capacity of communities to respond to all these tragedies has been quite incredible and the sight of so many people coming together to help others cannot but inspire us all.
A number of emergency charities have been set up in the wake of all these events and the relevant links are shown below.
Napo members are among the most caring trade unionists I have ever met and I know that as many of you as possible will do all that you reasonably can to help those in desperate need.