This week's Blog comes to you live from Manchester Central. At last weeks meeting of the Napo NEC your delegates to the 2018 Trade Union Congress, Yvonne Pattison and myself were given approval to vote in favour of the General Council Statement on the current situation relating to Brexit.
We have just had the vote which was almost unanimous in support following an impassioned debate where the gravity of what is probably the biggest socio-economic issue facing British citizens since the end of the second world war was laid bare. To some that may seem over dramatic, but there is no escaping the harsh facts that by spring next year Britain faces the serious prospect of exiting the European Union without a negotiated process in place.
Up to now Napo has been unable to adopt a policy position on the Brexit negotiations although Yvonne and I have supported those statements in relation to the negotiations in so far as they pertain to protecting the rights of working people.
Last week I wrote about the worsening political environment which for quite some time has been preceded by major rifts in the Government which within the last few days have gravitated to a state of open warfare and a blatant attempt to stage a coup d’etat against Theresa May by the extreme right of the Tory Party.
Just how all this is going to strengthen the UK’s hand in the critical negotiations with Europe and the still to come Parliamentary debate on the terms (or not) of the exit under Article 50, was just one of the factors contained in the TUC statement and the Composite Motion that was also carried and supported by Napo.
There is no doubt that the Brexit issue still divides the public like no other issue has managed to do in many decades. The view of Congress was that it is perfectly acceptable to call out an inept Government who consider that their internal machinations are more important than protecting its citizens; a government whose weakness has directly led to a proposed deal (aka ‘The Chequers agreement’ that won’t be any more acceptable to the European Parliament than it will be to the one that will meet this Autumn in Westminster.
In essence Napo have supported a position that:
- Respects the result of the Referendum but calls for an exit from the EU that puts jobs and the retention of employment rights first.
- Rejects the concept of a ‘no deal’ Brexit that will destroy jobs and in its place deliver a tariff-free, barrier-free and frictionless trade arrangement with the rest of Europe.
- Will secure the rights of EU citizens working in the UK as well as those of UK workers in the EU.
- Will maintain the Good Friday agreement, no hard border in Northern Ireland and nothing that will worsen the position of the border arrangements between Gibraltar and Spain.
Finally, and perhaps crucially, Congress today adopted the call for all options to remain on the table in terms of a public vote on any negotiated deal that may be on offer and, of course, the ultimate opinion poll in the form of a General election.
Watch this space over the coming weeks.
Other issues debated at congress today included:
Mental Health, where Equity proposed a motion to give mental health a greater emphasis in negotiations with employers. They called on all unions and employers to recognise the damaging impact that a hostile workplace can have on peoples health. Mental health is as important in terms of a health and safety issue as physical health. It's a salient lesson that all of the 24 employers we deal with would do well to heed.
Making 2019 the year of the young worker. Worksmart is a new initiative by the TUC aimed to engage with young workers. Young people need trade unions more than ever with zero hour contracts, rising housing and living costs and stagnant wages. Probation is recruiting more and more young workers and Napo needs to engage with them and show it is relevant to the next generation of probation staff.
The Officers and myself fully appreciate that members are anxious to learn more about what is happening in the current pay negotiations with HMPPS and here is an update from your pay team.
"A series of meetings around probation pay reform in the NPS have taken place with Napo, UNISON and the GMB over six days so far, with further talks planned for two days this week and further into September if needed. As far as Napo is concerned these talks will also have an impact on CRC pay negotiations where these are scheduled and on the on-going contract renegotiations between the NPS and CRCs. They are therefore the most significant pay negotiations in probation for more than a decade.
Whilst the negotiations are in progress all sides are limited by what they can say publicly regarding progress in the negotiations with the old mantra, 'Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed' very much being the case. Napo members can be assured that your negotiators believe that progress is being made and that the talks have been constructive so far. We are measuring progress against our national pay claim priorities. This is available on the Napo website
Napo will be looking to hold extensive consultation with members over what we hope will be potentially important reforms. Before any negotiated position can be implemented it will also have to go to a ballot of union members so you will have the final say.
Members are also encouraged to share this with colleagues who may not currently be in a trade union. Only by joining a union will members be able to have a vote in any forthcoming pay reform ballot. By joining today they can ensure that they will be included.”