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Why Politicians need to listen to Trade Unions

The Trade Union Congress meets in Liverpool this Sunday and Napo will be represented this year by National Vice-Chair Ben Cockburn and General Secretary Ian Lawrence.

The Trade Union Congress meets in Liverpool this Sunday and Napo will be represented this year by National Vice-Chair Ben Cockburn and General Secretary Ian Lawrence.

Each affiliate union is allowed to submit motions for debate, and occasionally these may be the subject of a composite with a similar motion from one of our sister unions. Napo’s original motion, highlighting the impact of under investment in the Probation Service and the consequent risk to public safety, has ben merged with one from the POA calling for a Royal Commission into the Criminal Justice system. This will be debated on Tuesday morning just before our other motion calling on the TUC to get behind a campaign to see Cafcass removed from the Civil Service Pay Remit.

See the motions:

Other ‘big ticket’ issues at Congress

The debates at Congress are expected to be lively, following a wave of industrial unrest across the UK this year, not seen in such quantities since the 1970’s.

Tens of thousands of working people, many of whom have never previously taken part in strike action have supported their union’s campaign to fight back against low pay and changes to terms and conditions, and in some cases further concessions have been achieved and these will rightly be celebrated. This Governments response to the fact that public opinion has overwhelmingly been in support of working people’s willingness to demonstrate such solidarity, has been the introduction of the ‘Minimum Service Level’ legislation. This will see the prospect of striking workers being sacked for not complying with any MSL that applies to their workplace and unions facing the prospect of fines of up to £1 million if they fail to take reasonable steps to urge their members to comply.

My involvement with the TUC General Council means that I am able to add Napo’s voice to the developing campaign of opposition through legal routes or, as may be likely in the future (depending on any mandate that you provide your leadership with), a campaign of mass public action in defence of the fundamental right of a worker to withdraw their labour.

All of this raises the inevitable question of what a prospective Labour Government would do to completely repeal what is, even by the standards of this government, the most draconian anti-trade union law that I have ever seen during my long career. Congress will be demanding just that.

Another big ask of prospective political leaders will be to nail down where they stand on another controversial issue, which is the growing campaign for a ‘New Deal for Workers’. See more here from the TUC  about the campaign, which has its genesis within a number of trade unions, including Napo and those forming the Trade Union Co-ordinating Group of which Napo is a founder member. The concept of this offer and how it will need to be accommodated by all employers will no doubt feature large in the next General Election and you can expect to see car loads of Tory candidates claim how unsettling this will be for the economy and the rights of some employers to continue to exploit their workforce and treat them as second class citizens.

The TUC message to Sir Keir Starmer must be very clear. No watering down will be acceptable.

One Response

  1. As someone with over 50 years ‘lived experience’ as PO and SPO in community and prison, I have been aware since the 90s when I faced redundancy, of the service’s underfunding. Reinforced by my writing of a personal history for an ICCJ monograph, I am very aware of the current damaging impact of this and HMPPS oversight on colleagues well being, and our work : 40 PDU inspections only one ‘good’, increasing SFO concerns. Then there is the reduction of our ‘tools’ in respect of interventions; a performance driven service – an increase of over 50% in service level metrics. I am concerned about the punitive nature of the ISCs and removal of overall probation decision re breach; the attitude and culture of the judiciary, never seemingly addressed, leading to ever more short custodial sentences. One HMPPS draining monies to prisons. I fully support the motion.

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