Protecting National Collective Bargaining for the National Probation Service and Community Rehabilitation Companies

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2015 Police & Justice Service Group Conference
18 June 2015

Conference notes with concern the threat to the future of the National Negotiating Council (NNC) for the Probation Service. The NNC was created in its current form in 2000 to cover the amalgamation of probation boards and the creation of a single-table bargaining machinery for all probation staff. Since that date, the NNC has been a very successful collective bargaining body which has consistently delivered quality pay and conditions to probation staff.

Conference acknowledges the high quality NNC Joint Secretarial function which for many years provided for effective dispute resolution between employees, recognised trade unions and employers, plus the employment advice service which the NNC provided to Probation Boards and then later Probation Trusts. Along with a very comprehensive national handbook of terms and conditions, and the ground-breaking 2006 probation pay and grading reforms, the NNC has much legacy work to be proud of. The NNC created a negotiating climate in which partnership could and did flourish for the benefit of employees and employers alike.

Conference is reminded that when the Con-Dem government abolished the 35 Probation Trusts in June 2014, to create the National Probation Service (NPS) and the 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs), the probation unions fought long and hard to retain the NNC as a single table bargaining machinery to cover members across all these new employers. This was a significant achievement and one which required the threat of UNISON industrial action in December 2013 to see this protection for members incorporated into the NNC Staff Transfer and Protections Agreement.

Conference notes that since June 2014, the National Probation Service has made no secret of the fact that it wants to create a separate bargaining machinery for those ex-Probation Trust staff who now work for the NPS as core civil servants. On the face of it, any such development would see the demise of the NNC as a single table covering both NPS and CRC staff. This would leave UNISON members working for one of the 21 CRCs in a very vulnerable position, regarding the future of national bargaining for pay and conditions, given that the 21 CRCs are now owned by a small number of large private sector companies.

Conference recognises that the NNC needs to be reformed to fit the new employer environment, but believes that this can take place while still retaining a single table bargaining machinery covering both NPS and the CRCs. Conference is aware that part of the ACAS conciliation, following the UNISON call for strike action over probation pay 2014, did set up a process for the NNC parties to begin discussions on the future of national collective bargaining.

Conference therefore calls upon the Service Group Executive to work with our National Probation Committee to:

1)seek to defend national collective bargaining, in principle and practice, for UNISON probation members across the NPS and the CRCs;

2)maintain the National Negotiating Council machinery for NPS and CRC members, but with flexibility to amend the constitution and national handbook of terms and conditions as necessary to achieve this aim;

3)liaise with our sister union Napo to help achieve this objective;

4)promote the value of national collective bargaining to NPS and CRC members.