Government plans to privatise probation breach forced labour regulations

Unions report UK to ILO for breach of Forced Labour Convention.

Today (Monday 10 February), UNISON, NAPO and GMB are jointly reporting the UK Government to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) over its plans to outsource the probation service to the private sector, as this breaches international labour law.

The Government’s plan to open up the supervision, monitoring and delivery of probation to the private sector is in breach of article 24 of the ILO’s Forced Labour Convention which states that community payback orders must be supervised by the public sector. Under the Government’s plans, this supervision will be handed over to the private sector. 

Every day, more than 200 community payback orders are imposed by courts in England and Wales. And last year, around 7 million hours of unpaid work were done in the community to deliver on these orders. 


UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis said:

“The ILO Forced Labour Convention is very clear that community payback orders must be supervised by the public sector, and the Government’s privatisation proposals will breach this. 

“In fact, the UK Government first breached the Convention over 12 months ago when they put Serco in charge of community payback in London.

“The Government is rushing through its probation privatisation plans with undue haste, and this breach of international labour regulations will be just one of the catastrophic results”

“As well as making this referral of the UK Government to the ILO, UNISON calls on the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling to abandon his controversial probation privatisation and to work with unions and employers to keep probation public in the interests of community safety, accountability and offender rehabilitation. 


Ian Lawrence General Secretary for Napo (Trade union for Probation and Family Court Staff) said:

“The breach of article 24 of the ILO Forced Labour Convention is yet another example of the coalition governments lack of principles when itcomes to outsourcing public sector contracts.

“They breached the international standards when they sold off London Probation Unpaid work to Serco 18 months ago and now they are stampeding ahead with a wholesale sell off of Probation across England and Wales showing a total disregard for International Labour Standards.

“This is wholly unacceptable and the government needs to be held account for its actions. Napo along with its sister unions Unison and GMB are calling for a halt to these disastrous plans and for the government to explain why it has breached the ILO Labour Convention which clearly states that Unpaid Work should be supervised by the public sector.

“The Justice system is about people not profits and to privatise the Probation Service will seriously undermine public protection and rehabilitation. “


Sharon Holder, GMB National Officer, said: ”As our reference to the International Labour organisation clearly shows, there is a serious legal

question mark hanging over the government’s plan to hand probation supervision over to profit making enterprises.

“It would therefore be sensible for government to obtain a ruling on this matter prior to relinquishing any more of the state’s responsibility for probation in

favour of private financial interests. Fundamentally, GMB believes the privatisation of probation to be wrong and dangerous.”


Notes to Editors