Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/783/17538
Probation officers ballot for action
Chas Berry, Chair, Kent National Association of Probation Officers (Napo)
Public safety is under threat by plans to break up and privatise the Probation Service in England and Wales.
Currently, around 180,000 offenders are managed each year in the community by 35 local trusts staffed by trained professionals. They work with police, prisons, courts and specialist service providers.
It works well, ensuring a 'joined up' service that minimises the risk of further offending. Justice Minister Chris Grayling wants to change all that by selling off 80% of this work to the lowest bidders in the private sector, creating a two-tier system that will put the public at risk.
Of course, there is always more that can be done, especially for prisoners serving less than 12 months who don't currently benefit from supervision on release.
Grayling plans to extend supervision to this group but only with private providers on a 'payment by results' basis.
He pioneered this model when he was head of the Work Programme, but its failure to deliver hasn't stopped him heralding it as the best way to cut reoffending rates.
He is a man in a hurry and wants to push through his 'Transforming Rehabilitation' (TR) programme by April 2014.
Napo has warned of the danger ahead since Grayling announced his TR programme in May. The union has fought a valiant campaign through the media and by lobbying MPs and sympathetic Lords as well other professionals in the justice field. A further lobby of Parliament takes place on 9 October.
National negotiators have reached an impasse, with Grayling's Ministry of Justice (MoJ) making impossible demands and imposing a timetable that is causing chaos and confusion.
Probation workers are not known for their militancy but they are angry about the impending destruction of a service they are passionate about.
They responded in their hundreds to the call for lunchtime protests when Grayling published the invitation to tender for their work on 19 September but they recognise this will not be enough to defeat TR.
Napo is balloting its members for industrial action for only the third time in its history. We need a big turnout and a YES vote to both questions on the ballot paper.
Members also need a strategy to win, linked to the struggles already taking place across the public sector and beyond through coordinated industrial action.
The ballot runs from 4 to 18 October.
In The Socialist 9 October 2013:
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party review
International socialist news and analysis
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Socialist Party workplace news