Probation unions threaten strikes over job cuts

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On 16th April, the Probation trade unions, Napo, Unison and GMB warned the permanent secretary Ursula Brennan that members may be forced to ballot for strike action if she did not intervene over plans by the French multinational Sodexo to axe up to 46% of its staff in the 6 Community Rehabilitation Companies it took over on the 1st February 2015. Sodexo announced recently that 500+ jobs are at risk across its contract as it plans to replace highly skilled staff with biometric machines and mass call centres to supervise offenders in the community.

The unions, who strongly oppose the massive job cuts have also warned the permanent secretary that unless Enhanced Voluntary Redundancy agreements reached with Ministers last year were honoured in full, their members would be  looking to ballot for strike action. Napo said that the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) and Ursula Brennan in particular had an obligation to intervene after they “signed off” the deal to privatise the probation service despite  strong opposition and expert opinion which said it would not be safe to do so.

Ian Lawrence, General Secretary for Napo said “We warned the Permanent Secretary not to sign off the CRC contracts as we had real fears that Transforming Rehabilitation and the outsourcing programme were not fit for purpose. Sodexo’s operating model of replacing highly skilled staff with machines and call centres to supervise offenders is dangerous and will put the public at risk.”

All three unions have asked for the Permanent Secretary to clarify if the MOJ knew about the redundancies when Sodexo submitted their contract bid, or if Sodexo has sought approval from the Secretary of State for the job cuts since the contracts were signed.

They have made a direct appeal to Ms Brennan to instruct Sodexo to halt the planned job cuts until the public and staff can be assured that Sodexo’s plans have been fully scrutinised from both a staffing and a public safety point of view.