Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/788/17724
Probation officers plan more action
Chas Berry, Chair, Kent Branch, National Association of Probation Officers (Napo)
Despite a virtual news blackout nationally, the strike by probation workers in Napo on 5 and 6 November has brought the campaign against privatisation to prominence in every community.
The decision to stage the walkout over two days proved to be a master stroke as the level of participation on picket lines and at rallies and demonstrations was unprecedented. This has lifted the confidence of probation workers and given us a sense of our collective strength as well as the huge support we have in the community, particularly among other trade unionists.
But with justice secretary Chris Grayling seeking to press ahead with the sell-off, how can we make best use of this momentum?
Napo has now served notice of our intention to take action short of a strike from 14 November. This is designed to interfere with privatisation plans without compromising public safety. For example, probation workers regularly work beyond their contracted hours to provide courts, prisons and the Parole Board with detailed assessments.
These assessments are often requested outside required notice periods but are generally completed on time through the goodwill of staff, often at the expense of their own health. No longer! As one colleague remarked recently: "Grayling doesn't value the work we do, so let's see what price he puts on us when we stop doing his work for free".
Further strike action may be necessary as we move closer to Grayling's deadline of 31 January for the 'splitting' of staff between the Community Rehabilitation Companies and what remains of the National Probation Service.
Clearly, the response of Unison and GMB representing large numbers of administrative and Community Payback staff, who have yet to ballot their members over these changes, will be significant in determining the timing and effectiveness of future strikes.
Through its independent strategy, however, Napo is showing that where it leads others will follow. This is evident from the numbers joining Napo and the pressure on Unison and GMB officials to join the fight.
The consciousness of probation workers has moved significantly during this dispute. The arrogance and disdain with which their professionalism is being ignored in the name of corporate greed is a salutary lesson about the role of the political elite in upholding capitalism. With a bold approach many will draw socialist conclusions.
In The Socialist 13 November 2013:
Socialist Party news and analysis
Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition
Socialist Party workplace news
International socialist news and analysis
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