Napo members striking against privatisation in 2013, photo Paul Mattsson

Napo members striking against privatisation in 2013, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Socialist Party reporters

Probation and family court workers left Napo’s annual general meeting in a significantly more buoyant mood to the one in which they arrived. Increased attendance and key debates about the strategy of the union served to energise the conference in a way that hasn’t happened since probation services were part-privatised in 2014.

The central debate was over national collective bargaining in the probation service, where a number of employers are threatening to break away from national agreements.

National Vice-Chair Chas Berry said proposals to set up single employer bargaining would set a precedent making it impossible to return to a fully integrated public service. “Why are we trying to make deals with the devil”, he said, “It may look tempting, but once you’ve sold your soul, you won’t be getting it back!”

The motion committing Napo to resist any attempt by employers to break away was passed overwhelmingly and this was carried over into support for the Corbyn-led Labour Party in any campaign to reinstate probation as a national amalgamated public service.

Significantly, over 50 people attended an unofficial fringe meeting under the banner of ‘Napo4Corbyn’ where a new left platform within the union was established.

It seems clear the enthusiasm generated by the re-election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader can be used as a powerful tool for reinvigorating our union at the grassroots.

This will be vital if we are to put flesh on the bones of the important decisions made at this conference.


Putting things into perspective, the most vital motion passed all week was the final one brought by members in the family court section opposing the government’s Children and Social Work Bill. This bill proposes to exempt local councils from their legal duties affecting social care, including child protection services.

The motion illustrates why we cannot wait until 2020 for a change of policy. Lives are quite literally at risk if we do not organise the resistance now.

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