Probation members prepare for action ballot in Sodexo companies

UNISON and NAPO members reject reduced redundancy terms by 98% in consultative ballots covering six community rehabilitation companies

UNISON probation members working for six community rehabilitation companies owned by Sodexo could be balloted on industrial action over the company’s voluntary redundancy terms.

These are well below those agreed at the probation service’s national negotiating council for England and Wales and have been rejected by 98% of UNISON members voting in a recent consultative ballot.

Probation officer colleagues in NAPO also voted to reject the Sodexo terms by the same margin.

The enhanced voluntary redundancy scheme agreed at the national negotiating council allow for 4.5 weeks pay for each year of service, up to a maximum of 67.5 weeks, for staff agreeing to voluntary redundancy.

If they are over 55, staff also receive an immediate, unreduced, pension.

However, Sodexo is offering staff two weeks pay for each year of service, up to a maximum of 30 weeks, and a choice of either this or an unreduced pension for staff over 55.

A joint statement from UNISON and NAPO said the unions hope the “strength of feeling” evident in the consultative ballot results will bring Sodexo back to the negotiating table.

But if not, they say that work is under way in both unions “to prepare for a potential industrial action ballot of all members in the six Sodexo-owned CRCs over the sub-standard severance terms offered by the company”.

If an industrial action ballot does take place, UNISON and NAPO stress the importance of members using their votes, adding: “Unless we challenge Sodexo now, both NAPO and UNISON fear that this could be the start of the company seeking to remove your other hard-won terms and conditions.”

There are 21 community rehabilitation companies in England and Wales, which replaced 35 probation trusts when the service was fragmented and privatised last year.

Six of those companies are owned by Sodexo in Northumbria, Cumbria and Lancashire, South Yorkshire, Norfolk and Suffolk, and Essex, and Bedfordshire, Northants, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire.