Following my earlier reports on pay over the last few weeks Napo, UNISON (and we hope the GMB) are organising a Day of Protest for members in the NPS and CRCs to show their anger and dismay at the way that probation workers have been treated over the 2017/18 Pay farce and the delays in negotiations over longer term pay reform from 2018 onwards.

As has been made clear, the unions showed great patience during 2017 in the hope that our claims would be treated with respect. Attempts have been made to negotiate with the NPS and CRCs, but with the exception of a few CRCs, members have received little more than the increment which they were contractually entitled to, and members at the top of their pay band received absolutely nothing last year.

Probation staff have been treated far worse over pay than most other public sector workers, with only a 1% pay rise since 2009.

That is why the unions are organising a Day of Protest on Friday 18 May for members to show their employer, the Ministry of Justice, and the government, just how strongly you feel about the disrespectful manner in which our claims have been considered. The state of probation pay, across the NPS and the CRCs, is a disgrace,


On 16 February 2018, Michael Spurr confirmed that NPS staff would get nothing for their 2017 pay award, other than the contractual increment which staff received back in April last year. The 25% of NPS staff at the top of their pay band have received nothing, and there will be no increase in any allowances.

This was basically because HMPPS top-sliced your pay rise for 2017 to give a 1.7% pay increase for prison staff; £340 million to the CRCs  in the big bail out last July and to pay £3,000 market forces payments to all new staff in the South East Division (but not to existing staff in the South East).

Therefore, the NPS has spent the money that should have funded a pay rise on other projects.


Only one CRC owner has made a pay offer for 2017, which the unions have been able to recommend. Others have made very low pay awards to staff, but some have done the same as NPS and given only contractual increments to their staff for 2017. The CRCs will no doubt plead poverty, but they got a £340 million bail out last July and, in the majority of CRCs, very little of this cash has trickled down to staff.

It’s time to protest on Friday 18 May

Given the above scenario your National Executive Committee have agreed a range of activities designed to show the NPS, HMPPS and the CRCs that treating probation workers in this way is wrong. That is why we are encouraging all members to take part in a day of protest over pay on 18 May. This will not constitute industrial action and you are not being asked to refuse to undertake your normal duties

The unions will be producing materials to support the day, including leaflets and placards. We would like members to stage protests in public areas near to your workplaces, contact local MPs to come and meet you, and tell your stories to the local media. More information will be available shortly, but please put 18 May in your diary now.

NPS told pay NMW now

Here is what the unions have told HMPPS following some astonishing prevarication over implementation of new National Minimum Wage rates in the NPS

“As you are aware, the National Minimum Wage increased on 1 April 2018 to £7.83 an hour. This means that pay points 10, 11, 12 and 13 in pay band 1 of the NPS pay and grading scheme must be deleted with effect from 1 April and all staff on these pay points moved immediately to pay point 14, which has an hourly rate of £7.87.

There was some suggestion at yesterday’s TU Engagement Forum that this adjustment could wait until we have concluded our long awaited NPS pay reform, but the unions are not in agreement to the for obvious reason that this would be illegal.

We therefore expect NPS to make the necessary salary adjustment for our members in the April pay run. Any delay risks the NPS being reported for being in breach of the new minimum wage rate.

We look forward to confirmation that pay points 10, 11, 12, and 13 will be deleted with effect from this month.”

You could not make it up.

New ICT system shelved by Sodexo CRC’s

The exchanges that I copied you into following the Public Accounts Committee report into the TR contracts show how much difficulty is still being encountered by private providers as they seek to link in to the MoJ portals to allow for better information exchange and case management processes with the NPS.

The track record so far is quite lamentable with only a very few CRC providers actually managing to achieve against the objective and the PAC are asking some pretty awkward questions as a result of this revelation. Over the last week or so Sodexo have announced that they are not progressing with the integration of their new OMS ICT system blaming the technicalities of the MoJ “gateway” as the reason.  The company claims that it has heavily invested in this programme and that their operating model was based around the MoJ ICT requirements. Sodexo also claim that the stand alone functionality will lead to benefits for staff but that ball has a high level of spin from what I am picking up from members.

Meanwhile we are making our own enquiries at to what’s going on elsewhere and whether other CRC owners have abandoned, or are considering abandoning their gateway access plans. It was only a few weeks ago that Sodexo gave a commitment that the whole system would be operative in July. 

I expect that there are some interesting conversations going on right now between CERTAIN contractors and the MoJ.

The great AP Waking Night ‘cover up’

It’s not often I will publish a letter to the Minister whist awaiting a reply. But given what has been going on (or more pertinently what has not) in relation to the AP outsourcing debacle you can read the following joint letter with UNISON with the same sense of disbelief as we have been encountering as this shambolic project gets worse by the day:

Rt Hon David Gauke MP

Lord Chancellor & Secretary of State for Justice

12 April 2018

Dear David

Privatisation of NPS Approved Premises Night Waking Cover

Thank you for your letter of 23 February regarding the above. For the reasons set out below, we are not reassured by your reply. In particular you emphasized in your reply that all private contractor staff will be vetted in accordance with the contract, including a disclosure and barring service check and SIA licence. We learned this week, to our disbelief, that HMPPS is seriously considering the removal of the SIA requirement from the contract, because it has proved too onerous for the contractors!

All the evidence over the last month since the contracts went live on 1 March this year, is that all the concerns set out in our letter to you of 13 February have sadly been borne out by events. We need to bring these events to your attention so that you can consider whether there are grounds to suspend the contracts and bring the night waking cover back in house. The decision to advertise these contracts was a mistake which can be laid at the door of your predecessors, but it was your decision alone to proceed with them despite the clear warnings of the dangers of doing so. Here is what is actually happening:

South Contract: OCS

  • The unions understand that OCS has already been penalised with ‘service failures’ for being unable to provide the necessary cover in its contract area in the south.
  • It has been reported to the unions by South East Divisional management, at the last Divisional JCC, that since 1 March OCS has actually provided no cover at all, save for that delivered by the 9 ex-NPS staff who TUPE transferred to the company on 1 October.
  • In the Basildon and Guildford APs, NPS has had to provide all the night waking cover since the contract went live with its own sessional workers.
  • We are aware that NPS has instructed AP staff to OCS and log a work order to say that the company has failed to supply a night worker; that way NPS can claim the money back. This is a waste of valuable staff time and a detraction from their core work.
  • NPS confirmed that across the OCS South contract, since 1 March, the company has only delivered 66% of their contracted cover. We suspect that much of this cover was provided with agency staff, rather than the permanent staff stipulated in the contract.
  • The company has failed to supply the cover required under the contract notwithstanding the 60 day exemption from vetting standards given (inappropriately in our view) to the company to help it recruit staff of sufficient calibre to pass the necessary security standards. We would not find it acceptable for HMPPS to lower the vetting and security industry authority registration for OCS staff, if this is something you were tempted to do in order to make life easier for OCS. They signed a contract which requires SIA accreditation and in the absence of any vetting standards being in place at present, this accreditation is the only provision standing in the way of completely unsuitable individuals being placed in APs by the company. We are also disturbed to learn that one of the reasons you may be considering removing the SIA licence requirements is to allow NPS staff to apply to become sessional staff for OCS. If there is any truth to this it is an utter and total travesty.
  • OCS has allegedly told NPS that it is struggling to recruit staff in relation to the high risk nature of the work in APs. At one AP, an OCS employee turned up, but left very quickly when the nature of the resident group was explained. Perhaps the low pay the company is offering for a 48 hour working week is a factor here; we did point this out to you prior to the contracts going live.
  • Our members have been left in very dangerous situations when OCS members of staff failed to turn up and our members were forced to work additional hours at the end of a 12 hour shift. This is unacceptable and must stop now.
  • The shifts which OCS have been unable to cover have apparently been covered by a mixture of NPS sessional and agency staff. We ask that you confirm this to us in writing and in particular the proportion of shifts which HMPPS is having to pay to cover. In some cases, when the OCS member of staff has not turned up, the NPS has had to employ a sessional worker at additional cost to cover the shift; so HMPPS is presumably paying twice for the same cover.
  • OCS staff have no access to HMPPS systems, so are unable to undertake any of the risk assessment work that is essential to the operation of an AP.

North Contract: Sodexo

  • The same problems with private contract staff not turning up for shifts as required are being experienced on the Sodexo contract. Here is some testimony from some UNISON representatives in different APs in the North East Division:

I can give some basic feedback relating to staff not turning up for arranged shifts and NPS staff being left in the building long after their shifts have finished until alternative cover is arranged.   Unfortunately this happens regularly at (Name of AP) and recently there was a period whereby it became the norm for staff to wonder if someone was arriving at 8pm to take them off, and often no one would come.   When staff have rung the company they have said someone is on their way and on a few occasions when AP staff contacted the individual who was due on shift themselves, the person was waiting at home for someone to pick him up and bring him to work (arranged by the private company themselves) and he was still waiting for said lift after 8.30pm thereby meaning the NPS RW had to stay on the premises for 2 hours after their shift ended by the time someone arrived to take them off.  

Only last Friday we received a call from the private company at 5pm saying that they could not provide a member of staff that night and my understanding is that the on call manager had to come into work and complete the shift themselves due to no other provision being provided.’  

‘The contractors seem to have a casual attitude to punctuality. By and large they have no training and some of them are agency workers who are in the process of earning cash to fund other things like education etc. Quite a few of them work on other projects on their down time, and are breaking every working time directive there is. Because of the failings of our privatised DWNC, if colleagues are off sick, we do not know if they are going to be relieved by the contractors, or not at all. Last weekend we had the on call manager here for a night shift because Sodexo did not show.’

  • There appears to be confusion in the North Contract as to what Sodexo residential assistants can and can’t do on the contract. In the North West Division, the Sodexo staff are doing most AP duties and have log in access to HMPPS intranet systems, whereas in North East Division, management has produced a detailed schedule setting out what the private residential assistants can and can’t do. How can this disparity exist in relation to the contract which Sodexo signed?
  • The unions have placed on record a notice of serious and imminent danger to persons at work/in residence at the NPS undertakings that comprise approved premises in the North West Division as a result of:
    • Two agency workers working together at any one time at an approved premises
    • An agency worker working with a private residential assistant at any one time in an approved premises
  • In order for the NPS to comply with the Approved Premises Manual HMPPS must ensure that: ‘Under all arrangements, at least one member of staff on duty during daytime hours must be a keyworker or Offender Supervisor, and at least one in the evening and at weekends must be employed by the Probation Trust or Independent Management Committee and will be responsible for liaising with the duty manager in dealing with any immediate risks.  Staff for night duty must not be drawn solely from private security firms.’
  • This means that HMPPS is in breach of the AP Handbook if you continue to allow the staffing arrangements set out at a. and b. above, and also in breach of the Health and Safety Management Regulations.
  • NPS North West Division has tried to excuse the unauthorised use of two agency workers together on the same shift at an AP on the pretext that NPS has serious staff shortages in Approved Premises. This is no surprise, as NPS down-graded the AP residential worker role as a cost cutting measure! Rather than using expensive agency staff, the unions are calling for the residential worker job description to be re-evaluated.
  • Here is a description of the reported experience of one Sodexo employee in the North West Division:  (Name) was sent to the AP by Sodexo to do a night shadow shift last night.  He informed NPS staff that he received a telephone call at 3pm yesterday, he was doing a day shift somewhere else, and he was instructed to be at the AP for 8pm to do a night shadow shift at (Name of AP) and if he didn’t do it the job would be given to someone else.  Therefore, despite being up at work all day, he came and was up all night as well.

(Name) told NPS staff that, last night was his shadow shift, then he takes up permanent post and will do a further 4 night shifts starting tonight and he is now the new night security employee.  He was informed that the job he applied for entails watching cameras and patrolling a building.

(Name) has now gone home to go to bed and will return for a further shift tonight and the next 3 nights after.  NPS staff member said that somebody a male, who he suspects is quite high up at Sodexo rang up the AP in the middle of the night to see how things were going with (Name).  NPS employee said he passed the phone to (Name) and he had a conversation with the caller.  (Name) later informed us this morning that he didn't even know he was working for Sodexo until he received the phone call, as there was a different name on his time sheet, so he thought he was working for the company named on the time sheet.

Not surprisingly all of the above incidents have left our AP members feeling extremely vulnerable and angry at the failure of NPS to exercise its duty of care towards them, their residents and the communities which the APs serve. Our members are professionals who take their duties extremely seriously, and simply cannot understand why you have entered into a contract which has exposed them and their residents to danger and stress.

We will continue to monitor these contracts to ensure that you are complying with your legal duties as the employer and to expose on-going contract failures. We will also continue to campaign for these contracts to be returned as quickly as possible to the public sector.

When we expressed our concerns over this privatisation to the previous probation minister, Sam Gyimah, we were told that we were being ideological in our opposition. In reality it is your Department which has pursued an ideological commitment to privatise double waking night cover in approved premises against all the advice and entreaties from the staff who work in hostels. It is these staff, our members, who are picking up the pieces of your failed and failing initiative at the sharp end, and they are very angry.

Yours sincerely,                      

Ian Lawrence                           Ben Priestley                          

We have also written in similar terms to Sonia Crozier following her assurances as prefaced below about the DWNC contract.

 ‘As you know, the contract is now up and running. The providers have been providing consistent cover across the AP estate. We will continue to work with you during the implementation period and will seek to address any further concerns you may have.’

No I am not convinced either

Wednesdays Vigil for Justice

All that can get across to the MoJ HQ on Wednesday are welcome. Here are the details again: .

Meet outside the MoJ 102 Petty France Street Westminster 6:30 for 7:00

More news including some encouraging contact with members and the local Police and Crime Commissioners in the West Midlands in the next Blog post.

Blog type: 
General Secretary's Blog