UNISON Probation Members’ Spring Bulletin – May 2012

What future for a Public Probation Service?

This is the question that UNISON has been considering following the launch of the Government’s public consultation on the future of the Probation Service: ‘Punishment and Reform: Effective Probation Services’.

This much anticipated consultation document potentially opens the door to a very different probation world in which the bulk of probation work would be regularly put up for privatisation. The consultation document can been seen at the following address:
UNISON is in the process of putting together a full response which makes clear our views and our anger at many of the proposals. The Government consultation maps out a future in which around 70% of probation work will be up for privatisation. The only areas of work which will be kept in public sector would be: court reports, initial risk assessments and high risk offender management. The Government has made it clear that it sees the bulk of offender management being offered to the private sector alongside probation interventions. It is the Government’s view that competition will make probation work more effective in the future. UNISON totally rejects this. We have consistently asked the Government to prove its privatisation theory before it takes a hatchet to probation services, but ideology is winning the day over practical application.

UNISON does welcome the emphasis on localism in the consultation paper and the new commissioning role for Trusts which it suggests. This could see an end to the national Community Payback competition. However, we reject the need to have an artificial purchaser/provider split in each Trust, before they can commission local contracts for work. This would be an unnecessary waste of resources, which is not required in local authorities, nor in police authorities both which regularly commission services.

Key highlights of the Government proposals:

1. Around 70 % of probation work to be competed, including the bulk of offender management, but not the high risk element
2. Majority of commissioning to be carried out by individual trusts, however should an individual trust seek to provide the service it is commissioning, it will need to create a separate legal entity to bid for the work
3. A likely reduction in the numbers of probation trusts to ensure those that remain are sustainable

Trade Unions Submit Pay Claim for 2012

Having waited over 12 months to resolve the claim for 2011, UNISON and Napo have submitted our pay claim for 2012. UNISON consulted members widely on the submission and the response has enabled us to submit the following claim:

1. Incremental progression of 3, 2 or 1 pay point applicable to all staff on pay bands 1 – 6 depending on the position of staff in their pay band

2. A consolidated increase of at least £250 on all pay points in pay bands 1 and 2

3. A non-consolidated payment, worth at least £250, for all staff on pay bands 3, 4, 5 and 6

4. An increase to the London Allowance

5. The deletion of the lowest pay point in pay bands 1, 2, 3 and 4

6. A full review of the national Job Evaluation Scheme (this links to the Pay Modernisation agenda)

7. The following adjustment to the position of the development points in pay bands 1 and 2:

Pay band 1: development point to move from pay point 20 to pay point 22 and Pay band 2: development point to move from pay point 43 to pay point 45. In a letter to the probation employers, the Government made it clear that Probation was in its second year of its public sector pay freeze and so nobody would be allowed any cost of living increase other than that allowed for staff earning below £21,000. UNISON has reserved its position on these matters alongside our view that staff are entitled to 3 increments if below the development point in their pay band. We have agreed a first date for negotiations with the employers and we are looking for a speedy resolution so members can have any increase in their pockets now not a year later as was the case this time around.

UNISON continues to scrutinise Community Payback competition in London

UNISON is continuing to put pressure on NOMS regarding its plans to outsource Community Payback in London. The London area was the only area not to bring forward a public sector bid to run its own CP contract and was the first CP trust to go to competition. We have made regular interventions to NOMS on the competition and it is clear that the whole process has fallen into disrepute. It is of course still being pushed forward and UNISON and Napo have requested meetings with all the bidders for the service to ensure they understand our position and we can hear about their plans. UNISON has also been in correspondence with NOMS about the issue of London CP members’ pensions and the need to ensure they are protected. We became aware that a deal had been reached with London Trust to cover any excess liabilities and losses resulting from the transfer out of CP members. However, we still have not got to the bottom of what if any additional public money has been used to sweeten the pension terms. UNISON remains very concerned that this outsourcing will simply transfer hard pressed taxpayers’ money straight into the hands of the directors of the companies chosen to run the contracts.

Attacks on Facility Time

UNISON has published a guide for activists who are facing threats to facility time arrangements. The guide which can be found on the UNISON website at http://www.unison.org.uk/file/facility%20time%20guidance.pdf will support activists in the workplace make the case for preserving and enhancing this important function.

The attacks on facility time are being led by the ‘Tax Payers Alliance’ together with right wing conservative MP’s who are taking every opportunity to attack trade unions and the work they do. Following this pressure, the Tory-led Government is reviewing facility time arrangements within Government, which could lead to pressure within individual probation trusts to do the same.

UNISON and the TUC strongly reject these attacks as nothing more than ideological. In reality the work of UNISON activists in probation delivers real net gains within the organisation. They are skilled and trained workers who provide a direct link to the workforce for consultation, help resolve disputes, negotiate change and developments and support staff. We also help with training, development and lifelong learning and develop capacity. Alongside any facility time that probation employers give our reps, so much more is done in reps’ own time to ensure members receive a good service. This enables the workplace to be more productive and effective. The TUC calculate that trade union reps across the economy contribute anything from £1.2-3.6 billion in productivity gains.

If you are having problems with facility time please contact: b.priestley@unison.co.uk

Goodbye and Good luck

After 6 years served as the UNISON Probation Sector Committee Chairperson, Matthew Lay will be leaving his role at the start of June to take up a National Officer Role with UNISON at the UNISON Centre in London. Matthew, who became chair in 2006, played a key role in building the profile of UNISON’s probation members both within UNISON, and also within the probation profession. Today UNISON is recognised as a key player in the probation world and we enjoy positive partnerships with sister trade unions. We wish Matthew all the best for the future in his new role with UNISON and we prepare for the election of new national chair.

A portent of things to come

Over the last few months we have witnessed events which highlight why UNISON is so concerned about letting competition run riot through the Justice system. In South Yorkshire we had the unedifying site of probation staff locked out of prisons when it was announced that South Yorks Trust had teamed up with G4S as a partner in their bid to run 3 prisons, competing directly against the public sector prisons operation. In response, the public sector prisons decided that having South Yorks probation staff on the premises would compromise their commercial position as competitors and acted to remove them. Such was the magnitude of this development, NOMS acted swiftly to resolve the issue and get the probation staff back to work. It was clear that probation staff were just pawns in a bigger game about who will be running public services. UNISON believes this will a sign of things to come and the old spirit of public sector cooperation will disappear for good.

We have also witnessed in the last few weeks yet another example of this in the form of the strategic alliance between Durham and Tees Trust and Interserve (Yes, the very same Interserve which tries to provide estates and facilities management services in probation and refused to recognise UNISON for the purposes of collective bargaining on the Home Office FM contract) This new strategic alliance is seeking to run 3 prisons in different geographical locations including as far south as Warwickshire. Again they will be competing against the public sector prisons and possibly other probation Trusts. It is hard to see how anyone gains from this instability and chaos.

UNISON registers ViSOR vetting concerns

UNISON has registered its concerns with both NOMS and probation employers regarding a possible escalation in the number of staff members required to receive clearance to operate ViSOR (Violent and Sex Offender Register). UNISON understands that ViSOR has been subject to a security review which enhanced its classification. This means that full users have to have a level 3 clearance which is very intrusive and delves into aspects of your personal life which are not relevant to anyone’s work within probation. Examples of this include bank details, credit records and political affiliations. At present ViSOR has operated on the basis that only a limited number of users were required and, as such, was easy to manage through volunteers and dedicated ViSOR administrators.

The ViSOR system is owned by the National Police Improvement Agency and, as such, probation has little influence over the requirements necessary to use it. However, as long as each Trust had only a few operators, few if any vetting’s problems arose. What has added to the concerns of UNISON is that greater use of the ViSOR system is being pushed by NOMS, meaning many more staff would be required to pass the vetting. The impact of this would mean many more staff having to give private details to a 3rd party which has not been a requirement previously, nor relevant to the members of staff’s main occupation.

In fact all new starters may be required to pass the vetting before securing employment, which would be a significant change in practice and could put off potential applicants. Another big concern is that those who fail the ViSOR vetting need clear guidance on how to appeal and to get the full reasons why. UNISON is unhappy that a Trust’s HR department might get this sensitive information when it is unrelated to the primary employment.

UNISON and Napo are asking the employers to work with the trade unions to ensure a protocol is agreed in how these employment-related issues, linked to VISOR, are dealt with. If you have any VISOR related issues it is important that you make UNISON aware. Please contact d.bryant@unison.co.uk

Police and Justice Conference

This year’s UNISON Police and Justice Conference takes place in Cardiff from 11 to 13 October. Last year’s conference in Chester was a big success and enjoyed by probation delegates. We want this year’s conference to be both bigger and better. We are asking members to consider bringing forward probation motions to their local branches and get them submitted in time. We are also asking that all branches with probation members in them ensure they send the required delegation. This will deliver geographical spread and make for good representation.

Deadline for submission of motions Thursday, 14 June

Deadline for submission of delegates Wednesday, 1 August