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Probation workers' action can defeat privatisation
Chas Berry, Kent Napo branch chair, personal capacity
As we go to press, probation workers in Napo are preparing for a second national strike against privatisation from 31 March to 1 April.
Pressure is piling up on Secretary of State Chris Grayling from across the justice sector.
On 1 April, lawyers in the Justice Alliance will take protest action and join us in rallies across the country as part of their campaign against Legal Aid cuts.
At the same time prison officers in the POA, already at boiling point over staff cuts and pension changes, have been urged to support us and prepare for a coordinated response to Grayling's disastrous plans for resettlement prisons.
If further confirmation were needed of how out of touch Grayling is, it came with recent news that prisoners are now banned from receiving books sent in by relatives! This is because of new rules introduced to encourage compliance with a 'tougher' prison regime.
But it is yet another example of how Tory headline-grabbing measures will ultimately work against his declared aim of a 'rehabilitation revolution'.
Napo members have now been involved in a year-long battle against Transforming Rehabilitation (TR/privatisation) their determination in previous strikes has shown we can defeat this vicious Con-Dem government.
Living with the stress and anxiety of TR has not been easy but I say this:
- It's not too late. Staff assignments are complete and Trusts are being wound up but no jobs have yet gone to the private sector.
- We cannot stop the 'split' but we can keep the Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) in the public sector by delaying and preventing share sale.
- We're winning. TR is in meltdown. There has already been a two month delay and there are serious concerns about whether it can be delivered before the general election. Striking will put further pressure on TR delivery.
- Private providers are nervous. Companies that thought they could make quick money are now questioning whether they will be able to make 'rehabilitation' pay.
- If they were expecting a compliant workforce that they could cut easily, we need to press home the message that we will not roll over.
- It works. Talks broke down last year over the staff transfer scheme. Our action on 5 November brought Grayling back to the negotiating table.
- We won a National Framework Agreement that gives most staff seven years protection of service continuity.
- We're right. We've said all along that TR places the public at risk and we are being proved right. As the bureaucratic TR processes begin to take hold we cannot allow chaos and disintegration to undermine and demoralise the workforce.
- Striking will unite us once again and show the public we are determined to put their safety first.
In The Socialist 26 March 2014:
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