It’s hardly surprising that we have received a substantial number of individual enquiries from members this week who were understandably angry (as was I) after seeing the unexpected, hugely insensitive and factually incorrect statement by Rory Stewart on the intention to make a 2.7% pay award to prison staff.
A number of you have questioned why we have not been mentioned in this and other statements around public sector pay such as the NHS settlement and have asked what we are doing about it. The first important point here is that negotiations involving workers in other bargaining areas are informed by the outcomes from their own pay review bodies. The nearest that we have ever had to this type of arrangement was the National Negotiating Council which provided collective bargaining across all former probation trusts such as the 2008 pay award, but was disbanded by the government as an effective entity not long after the implementation of Transforming Rehabilitation.
That did not stop Napo and our sister unions submitting pay claims, but the fact is that you have suffered a seven year pay freeze implemented by the Tory/ConDem coalition together with an austerity programme that is only just starting to provide limited leeway on pay awards. I should also you that what you may have seen awarded elsewhere does not even come close to what is needed before I even think about putting an offer to our members.
These facts have meant that Napo and our sister unions have had to plough its own furrow on pay; and the situation has been further complicated by the willingness of some CRC owners opening up pay discussions with the unions while senior HMPPS management have been prevented from doing the same because of the failure of the department to manage their financial affairs in recent times including having their accounts qualified. Last year our members suffered the indignity of having money destined for probation siphoned off into last year’s prison pay settlement after we were lied to.
Napo has regularly rehearsed the problems that include unacceptably long pay progression, members stuck at the top of their pay bands, the farcical Market Forces Supplements system and the inherent unfairness between a probation pay system that is manly populated by women against that of the male-centric prison service pay regime. We have reported this in numerous communications with members and during our engagement with ministers and senior HMPPS leaders but the plain fact is that unless or until the Treasury release a pay remit then negotiations simply cannot happen.
The complex problems caused by an underfunded pay system and the potentially discriminatory aspects of it have been acknowledged by the current HMPPS negotiators and they in turn have been doing all that they can to seek authority from the Treasury to commence negotiations which I am at last able to report will get underway in August.
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I have regularly informed other unions of our policy to ballot members as part of any co-ordinated industrial action campaigns on public sector pay but a number of those unions have opted to settle on behalf of their members as opposed to engaging in combined action.
Our hope is that a decent pay offer will be achievable in these negotiations and that in turn this will act as a lever for Napo to pressure CRC providers to at least match it. It’s unclear at the moment whether today’s announcement on the future of probation may have an impact here, but at the end of the day it will be our members who determine whether any pay offer is acceptable. If it’s not, we may have no other option but to ballot members on industrial action. But here the parameters have swung massively in favour of the employer in terms of legislative thresholds on member turnout and percentages in favour of action. In short, any ballot for industrial action would include a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ option where every unused vote would be counted in favour of the employer. If that scenario comes to pass then I will be out there among you campaigning for a massive ‘yes’ vote.
This amplifies the view that I have always maintained: it’s not about what Napo in the singular is doing about pay and the many other issues faced by our members, it’s about Napo, as in the collective.
Apologies again for burdening your inbox but these are key issues for our members which I felt bound to cover in more detail.