Last year the Probation trade unions (Napo, UNISON, GMB SCOOP) lodged a national dispute over the failure of the Probation Service to honour the entitlement of newly appointed staff to receive a pay progression increment after six months service in their post.
After numerous meetings where the employer was unable to agree to the representations made by the unions, it was agreed that the issue should be referred to ACAS.
Prior to this, Napo's Probation Negotiating Committee had given authority for legal action to be initiated once all avenues for negotiation had been exhausted.
Between the meeting at ACAS and the turn of the year, the unions discovered further and compelling evidence to prove that the contractual entitlement to incremental progression should have continued to apply to staff who met the above criteria.
Further dialogue has taken place with senior management since January, and at last we have received confirmation that the employer has accepted the veracity of our claim. The unions have now received an offer to discuss a final resolution to the dispute.
This is clearly excellent news, but there is still work to be done to identify the full extent of the impact on staff before any detriment can be rectified.
Further research is being undertaken by senior management to inform our next discussion. However, the information currently in our possession appears to show that this is most likely to involve staff who have been recruited to the Probation Service since 2018.
Position of the respective Trade Unions in seeking legal remedy
At the outset of the dispute the three unions acknowledged that each of us would make contingencies in terms of potential legal action if this was thought to be necessary.
In the case of our Sister union UNISON, their established national policy is that any individual claim in respect of a National dispute must first be the subject of a grievance prior to escalation through their legal department, for an assessment of the prospects of the possible submission of Employment Tribunal claims.
In the case of Napo and the GMB, and following legal advice, we determined that should it be necessary to pursue individual claims (once all avenues had been exhausted) we should do so through other means. This very much remains an option depending on the outcome of what we obviously hope will be final talks to resolve this dispute.
Meanwhile, any Napo members who believe they have suffered a detriment need take no immediate action and should await the outcome of further discussions with the employer on which further news will be issued once it becomes available.
While we have still to finalise an agreed resolution, the position we have reached, compared to that which forced the unions into dispute in the first place is very promising.