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Probation workers strike against privatisation
Chas Berry, Chair, Kent National Association of Probation Officers ( Napo)
As probation workers prepare to strike on 5 and 6 November, confidence is growing that privatisation can be defeated.
Pressure is mounting on Justice Secretary Chris Grayling that plans to transfer most work to private companies by October next year are beginning to unravel. Industrial action by Napo now threatens to bring them to a grinding halt.
When Grayling launched his so-called Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) agenda in May it was with the swagger of a man who thought he could ride roughshod over parliament, probation workers and all professional opinion.
Invoking powers introduced by New Labour in 2007 he expected to dissolve the probation service by edict with little opposition.
He now faces an almost 'perfect storm' of Parliamentary revolt, industrial militancy and a possible judicial review over his abuse of power.
On top of this, two of his largest potential bidders, Serco and G4S, are in crisis after the resignation of senior staff over fraud allegations.
A groundswell of opinion is beginning to form against Grayling, and his Offender Rehabilitation Bill is expected to receive a rough ride through its second Commons reading.
We cannot rely on Westminster to safeguard our future, however, and to its credit Napo recognises that its members will play the key role in deciding whether probation remains as a fully integrated public service.
The strike takes place over two days in the same week that postal workers and firefighters take action and at the same time as expected nationwide protests against austerity. Prison officers may also show their support through unofficial protests.
All this will have a deep impact upon the consciousness of probation workers, most of whom have never taken industrial action before or been involved in political struggle.
Images of Grayling dressed as Guy Fawkes are circulating widely and a number of effigies are expected to go up in smoke overnight. On 5 November many will question who the real criminals in our society are.
In The Socialist 30 October 2013:
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