Probation staff in Brent join national strike over government’s privatisation plans

Staff from Willesden Probabtion Office have staged a walk-out from noon today

Staff from Willesden Probabtion Office have staged a walk-out from noon today - Credit: Archant

Probation staff in Brent have joined thousands of their colleagues across England and Wales to stage a 24-hour strike today over government plans to privatise the service.

The workers based at Willesden Probation Office in High Road, Willesden, are included in around 7,500 members of the National Association of Probation Officers (Napo) who walked out at 12pm to take part in the fourth strike in the union’s 101-year history.

The union previously registered a trade dispute over Justice Secretary Chris Grayling’s proposals to transfer most of the service to private firms such as G4S and Serco.

The action comes amid worsening industrial relations across the country as firefighters, post office staff and university workers have all been on strike.

Napo general secretary Ian Lawrence said union members were entering “unprecedented times” in their bid to “save the probation service”.

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He said: “They strongly believe, along with other criminal justice agencies and experts, that Chris Grayling’s plans will undermine public protection and put communities at risk whilst also not providing the adequate service offenders need to turn their lives around.”

A package of £450 million-worth of contracts has been offered to private and voluntary sector organisations, covering the supervision of 225,000 low and medium-risk offenders each year on a payment-by-results basis.

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Napo previously claimed negotiations with the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) over its Transforming Rehabilitation reforms had been “seriously compromised” as a result of the department’s “interference” in the consultation on the proposals.

Three Probation Trust chairs wrote to the Justice Secretary last week to voice their concerns about his plans and the possible risk of harm to the public if they go ahead.

Contracts are to be split across 20 English regions and one Welsh region, while the National Probation Service (NPS), a new public sector organisation, will be formed to deal with the rehabilitation of 31,000 high-risk offenders each year.

Jeremy Wright, Justice Minister, said: “It is disappointing NAPO has chosen to strike when we are making positive progress, in meaningful discussions with them and other relevant trade unions as we transfer to the new arrangements.

“This is a strike in favour of the status quo, which is high reoffending rates and no support for 50,000 short sentenced offenders each year who are currently released without any supervision and go on to commit so much crime in our communities.

“We have well established contingency plans to deal with any potential action. We will continue to support staff and engage with unions as our important reforms move forwards.”

The action ends tomorrow.

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