Napo defending jobs and our National Agreements – Ian Lawrence Writes

4 IanLawrence23At the time of going to press, the Probation Unions were about to embark on the first major test of the National Negotiating Council (NNC) machinery since the CRC contracts were awarded in December.

A number of local disputes have recently been registered by Branch representatives within the six Sodexo owned CRCs. These have come about because of the employer’s announcement of 600 job cuts just before Easter, and their paymasters’ stated position to avoid paying the full terms of the Enhanced Voluntary Redundancy scheme (EVR) that is enshrined within the National Staff Transfer Agreement. This from a commercial entity that is not only amongst the richest of its kind on Planet Earth but can find and spend money for fun when it wants to.

This Thursday’s scheduled meeting of the NNC Joint Secretaries will be a pivotal event as we try and tackle the earlier registered disputes within South Yorkshire and Northumbria in what has already become an extremely complex (and it ought to be said at times very fractious) debate about why Sodexo should revisit their staffing plans. We have repeatedly demanded that   they should pay up what they owe to those staff whom they have deemed to be surplus to requirement on the back of an untried and untested operating model that seems to be predicated on profit rather than good practice.

Of course the central point of their position is that this is a voluntary redundancy scheme, which people do not have to volunteer for; but regrettably this seemingly reasonable approach to managing the intended downsizing is underpinned by a sinister threat to sack people compulsorily if they do not sign up to their shabby cut price EVR ‘offer’ which, in some respects, is still about as clear as mud in terms of what entitlements staff might actually receive.

Our forecasts prove correct

One of the principal reasons why Napo led the way in the campaign against TR was because of our fears about public safety in a post-share sale landscape. Naturally we do not want to see deaths or serious further offences to occur to prove our point, but the other driver for our campaign was the need to defend the hard won terms and conditions of our members irrespective of whether they were likely to be transferred into the NPS or a CRC.

The cynical actions of Sodexo follow the pattern set by SERCO some time ago when they won the London Unpaid Work contracts and then promptly shed over a hundred staff (albeit on voluntary terms and without the same  drama that we are encountering within the Sodexo CRCs). This time however, we are faced with an approach to a staff reduction programme that I will politely describe as being somewhere between the farcical and the downright extortionate. It’s worth remembering that we did forecast this possibility given the previous track record of this provider in other sectors, but that didn’t seem to matter to those in high places within the MoJ and NOMS who signed off a bid that included such massively irresponsible job cuts whilst not satisfying themselves that the contractor actually had the means to pay for them.

Tough choices

The next few days from now will be critical in terms of how this challenge pans out, and there will be little room for the faint of heart as we consult with our members and Napo Sodexo reps about the response that they want us to adopt on their behalf. I know that Napo members everywhere will be empathising with their situation and wishing them well.

Ian Lawrence



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