Napo members fighting privatisation in 2014. Photo: Paul Mattsson
Napo members fighting privatisation in 2014. Photo: Paul Mattsson

Adam Harmsworth, Napo NEC member, personal capacity

Napo’s 2023 Annual General Meeting (AGM) comes at the most critical time for the probation and family courts union since the nightmare of ‘Transforming Rehabilitation’, the part-privatisation of probation.

Members in probation are facing down a blatant cost-cutting measure called ‘One HMPPS’. This is an ill-conceived programme that threatens to assimilate probation into the prison service.

Probation workers have already been through two huge reorganisations in a decade, thanks to the Tories. In 2014, probation areas were carved up to private companies, then in 2021 those companies had their contracts cut short and probation was reorganised again into the National Probation Service.

This new shake-up will only disrupt probation officers’ work, and totally ignores the biggest issues for the service: a decade of pay erosion and grossly unsafe workloads.

In response, the unions have lodged a dispute and launched a workload campaign named ‘Operation Protect’. This is a good start, but will have to be escalated to challenge the workload crisis driven by Tory cuts.

Tory attacks

Industrial action must be on the table. Two motions going to AGM on workloads call for industrial action. If they pass, and the government doesn’t improve workloads immediately, the Napo leadership shouldn’t hesitate to ballot.

Napo members in Cafcass (family courts) have voted in a consultative ballot on an insulting 4% pay offer. The results are not yet public, but it is clear to most, if not all, Napo members in Cafcass that below-inflation pay rises must be challenged.

Socialist Party members will be approaching Napo AGM to encourage probation and family court workers to push back against the onslaught by the Tory government. Probation is back in-house, but this alone hasn’t improved members’ pay or workloads.

The three-year pay deal for probation was reluctantly accepted by many members, but since then inflation has risen sharply. Napo should start campaigning now for better pay, involving as many members as possible in a serious pay campaign. When the next pay offer arrives from HMPPS, Napo must be fully prepared to strike if it is inadequate.

Probation is still starved of the resources needed to function properly. It is likely a general election will see Starmer’s Labour come to power. Napo should pressure the Labour Party now to commit to fully fund probation and Cafcass. However, Labour has already reneged on promises it made just months ago. Napo must also prepare to fight a Starmer-led Labour government if it will not meet our demands.