Napo members' on strike, photo Paul Mattsson

Napo members’ on strike, photo Paul Mattsson   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Napo AGM delegate

Napo, the union of probation workers and Cafcass (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service staff), held its first online annual general meeting (AGM), and the first since the ‘reunification’ of the probation service after a costly and devastating part-privatisation.

Napo members fought valiantly for the reversal of privatisation, but that victory is not the end of serious issues for probation.

The AGM began with an entirely inadequate speech from Frances O’Grady. She stated that the new Job Retention Scheme was not good enough, but would help protect jobs. This in no way justifies her photoshoot alongside Chancellor Rishi Sunak and the head of the CBI as it was unveiled!

When asked: “What can be done about a decade of pay cuts in the public sector?” she offered almost nothing concrete aside from adverts in newspapers to ‘up the ante’! Much more should be expected from the leadership of a movement with the real potential to fight and win decent pay.

Submitted motions expressed concern at micromanagement, deprofessionalisation, horrendous workloads, and staffing shortages. This doesn’t just come from privatisation, but also from a decade of real-terms pay and funding cuts that have impacted the whole public sector.

Unfortunately, this AGM missed a third of the motions including two titled ‘Black Lives Matter’. These will now need to be discussed another time. Disagreements arose during the debate over the crucial branch restructuring put forward by the national executive committee. Many felt the NEC had not properly consulted with branches and the lay membership. Limited AGM time was taken on this avoidable issue, and then the vote was lost by 78%!

A Socialist Party member called for urgent resources for Cafcass. Years of low pay has caused high staff turnover. Last year some Band 1 staff said they could not afford Christmas presents without overtime! Workloads are high and pressure on family court advisers is unrelenting. For years, calls for decent funding from Napo and even Cafcass management have fallen on deaf Tory ears, causing increasing harm to staff and to the service of safeguarding children.

We are entering a very unstable political era, where the Tories will stretch public finances like never before.

A gigantic fightback from the trade union movement is vital. Napo’s work must involve working in solidarity with other unions, because unity is strength, and together this movement of six million trade unionists can win.

Socialist Party members in Napo will work with all members willing to develop a socialist caucus in the union for this cause.