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Outsourced workers at two government departments will go on strike on Tuesday 21 May in a row over pay and conditions.

The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union, which represents workers at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), will take strike action for two days from tomorrow, while workers at the Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) will take action for four days.

Interserve, who operate at the FCO, have refused to recognise or negotiate with the union and have made repeated blunders on pay, leaving many low-paid workers struggling to make ends meet.

ISS and Aramark, who operate at BEIS, have refused to pay the London Living Wage (LLW), and cleaners at ISS have also struggled to survive due to non-payment of wages.

The situation has become so dire that the PCS BEIS branch set up a foodbank last week in a bid to help struggling ISS workers.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: “This week our members will tell these unscrupulous contractors enough is enough.

“The multi-day strikes being launched are just the beginning of an escalation in industrial action.

“These companies need to listen to the clear and reasonable demands of our members.

“When foodbanks are appearing at the BEIS department and a failing company like Interserve can’t pay workers on time, leading to members not even being able to get to work, then that is a scandal that needs dealing with.

“Ministers need to step up to the plate and take responsibility for this situation and take back all the contracted work in-house.”

Notes:

For more details of the Interserve dispute at the FCO, click here: https://www.pcs.org.uk/news/interserve-fco-workers-to-strike-again-21-and-22-may

For more details of the ISS and Aramark dispute at BEIS, click here: https://www.pcs.org.uk/news/iss-and-aramark-staff-at-beis-to-take-four-days-strike-action-over-low-pay?fbclid=IwAR3H2kJ611lfSSwTRFrTj0PA12ftF-2r65pVErOZHAjW6Tzq0nUwEFyVQrE

Striking workers will address PCS national conference on Wednesday 22 at the Brighton Centre, Brighton Kings Rd, Brighton BN1 2GR.

PCS is one of the UK's largest unions and represents civil and public servants in central government and in parts of government transferred to the private sector. Mark Serwotka is the general secretary and Fran Heathcote is President – on Twitter @franheathcote

Follow PCS on Twitter @pcs_union

Napo, the trade union and professional association for probation staff, is today (Thursday 16 May) celebrating a major turning point in its campaign to restore Probation to public-sector ownership as the Secretary of State for Justice, David Gauke, announces a fundamental change in government policy.

The statement by the Minister confirms a decision that will result in the eventual transfer of around 80% of probation work from that currently undertaken by the Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCS) to the National Probation Service. The current CRC contracts with the Ministry of Justice are due to be terminated in December 2020.

In 2014, the then Secretary of State, Chris Grayling, privatised 80% of probation services under his ‘Transforming Rehabilitation’ (TR) agenda. Eight organisations acquired 21 CRC contracts, which have been subject to a plethora of highly critical reports by Dame Glenys Stacey, the Chief Inspector of Probation. These reports, alongside the findings from the Justice Select and Public Accounts Committees, have repeatedly raised concerns about public safety, the quality of service being delivered and the ability of private sector providers to make a real difference to reoffending rates. In February this year three Working Links CRC contracts went into administration leaving debts of over £1.2 million to third-sector contractors for which the MoJ has been directed to make reparation.    

As the largest union representing probation staff, Napo has been campaigning for the CRCs to be returned to public ownership since day one. Voicing members’ feedback about the way the CRCs have managed their contracts, General Secretary Ian Lawrence said: “Since these so-called reforms were first outlined Napo has raised serious concerns about this untested social experiment. The government went ahead and implemented a model that had been criticised across the board for being unfit for purpose. Our members predicted that the TR model was doomed to fail from the outset. We are pleased that this Minister has chosen to heed our concerns, examine the need for a different approach and take action.”

The new arrangements will replicate the Welsh model for probation that was announced earlier this year and which will be enacted by this December. This will see the majority of probation work involving clients under supervision transferred into public ownership by December next year, along with the staff involved. The government intends that the remaining intervention work, such as Community Payback and Accredited Programmes, will be put out to tender.

Ian Lawrence went on to say: “We are obviously disappointed that there is an intention for some probation work to remain in the private sector. Napo will continue to campaign to ensure that all of these services and our members who provide them, are eventually transferred back into the public sector and that we will step up our efforts to secure pay parity for all Probation staff. This victory has not given us all that we want and while this news will be welcomed by Napo members and other stakeholders, the campaign for public ownership is not over yet.”

Probation union Napo has called on ministers to abandon plans to remarket rehabilitation services after the current model was branded “irredeemably flawed” in an annual report published by probation chief inspector Dame Glenys Stacey today (Thursday 28th March 2019).

Commenting on the findings, Napo General Secretary Ian Lawrence said: “This latest contribution by the chief inspector and her team is not only testimony to their excellent work, but it endorses the conclusions of two Parliamentary Committees and our expert practitioner members that the earlier ‘Transforming Rehabilitation’ reforms have been a complete disaster, and have failed to deliver what was promised.”

This latest report vindicates Napo’s claims that the current CRC contracts (which will terminate early in December 2020), have significantly failed in a number of key areas, including public safety, and have only been sustained due to numerous taxpayer-funded bailouts as the operational costs increased well above the contractors’ original expectations.

Ian Lawrence went on to say: “The chief inspector has highlighted the fact that not only have the Community Rehabilitation Companies delivered sub-standard services, but the National Probation Service also has significant failings. Staff shortages and a reduction in professional standards have resulted in unmanageable workloads across the board. In London alone, staff vacancies are running at 20%, so it’s clear that the NPS is not sustainable in its current form.”

Increased workloads and staff shortages have had a ripple effect, with there being a significant rise in serious further offences, and 38% of magistrates indicating they have less confidence in probation now than they had under previous arrangements.

The Ministry of Justice plans to let 10 new contracts later this year which will see an increase in the size of the existing Community Rehabilitation Companies but a reduction in the number of private providers. The proposals have attracted massive criticism from stakeholders across the justice system who are also joining the call by Napo and Dame Glenys Stacey for ministers to halt the programme and consider an alternative model.

Napo agrees with the key conclusions of the HMIP report that probation services must be evidence-based to command the confidence of the public and the judiciary, with a focus on victims and the needs of those being supervised. The union also welcomes the suggestion that a regulatory body should be established to ensure high quality standards of probation delivery in the future.

THE FIREFIGHTERS' DILEMMA

TUCG: MARK SERWOTKA ON THE FIGHT AGAINST AUSTERITY

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BOOK: COST OF LIVING CRISIS

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By MIchael Calderbank

Foreword by Mark Serwotka, PCS General Secretary

 

Buy now from www.radicalread.co.uk

Based on research commissioned by the TUCG, the book examines why costs have risen for all items of expenditure, ranging from housing and child care to food and transport. He makes practical proposals on how these costs can be reduced. He also delivers an uncompromising message to the leaders of all mainstream Westminster Parties: it is time to end the politics of austerity, an ideological project to cut the size of the state permanently.