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)

Chas Berry, Napo national executive committee (personal capacity)

As the ballot for general secretary of probation and family court union Napo gets underway, members will recognise that change is needed at the top to restore confidence and lead the fightback.

Taking up the challenge is Mike Rolfe, former chair of the POA, the prison, correctional and secure psychiatric workers’ union.

Mike made headlines during the 2016 prisons crisis by risking imprisonment himself by threatening strike action in defence of his members whose safety was at risk. His stand helped secure a reversal of staff cuts and a pay deal that broke the Tory government’s pay cap.

Probation and family court workers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland have suffered four years of crippling workloads, staff shortages and deteriorating conditions.

The chaotic part-privatisation of probation services has taken what was once a highly motivated profession and transformed it into a demoralised and de-skilled workforce, spread across 24 separate companies.

Our union, Napo, has survived. But it is struggling to make a significant difference to the working lives of members who have had pay frozen for nine years, and are now expected to pay more and work longer for pensions that are worth less.

Mike is a Corbyn supporter and stood for Labour in last year’s general election. He has previously stood for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC). His election would undoubtedly give confidence to activists who have been battered relentlessly as they struggle to represent members with dwindling resources.

Mike promises to defend the primary role of the branch as the democratic lifeblood of the union against an increasingly corporate model of organisation. In five years, the incumbent, Ian Lawrence, has been unable to stop a decline in membership, and it is time for him to step aside.

Ballot papers must be returned by Thursday 28 June.