Socialist Worker

Probation officers come out against privatisation

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2378

Napo strikers in Brighton

Napo strikers in Brighton (Pic: Phil Mellows)

Probation officers in the Napo union ended their 24-hour strike today, Wednesday. The workers walked out from 12 noon yesterday against government plans to privatise probation services.

It was only the fourth walkout for Napo members since their union was founded more than 100 years ago—but the size of the picket lines showed strikers’ anger.

David Masterson is vice chair of Napo in London. He told Socialist Worker, “We’ve got two offices in Hackney, east London, and the overwhelming majority of staff came out.

“People were chomping at the bit to come out against privatisation. Lots of first-time strikers picketed and said if they’d known strikes were this exciting they would have joined picket lines in the past.”

The government wants to sell off probation services to private firms such as G4S and Serco. Workers say this threatens their terms and conditions as well as the service they provide.

Strikers joined big picket lines in towns and cities across England and Wales—including Wigan, Nottingham, Sheffield, Warrington, Leicester and in boroughs across London.

In Kent, an effigy of justice minister Chris Grayling joined the picket line. In Leicester, tens of Napo strikers with placards demonstrated on Burleys Way bridge.

Richard Buckwell reported that Napo strikers in Nottingham joined a Guy Fawkes protest “with placards and a stuffed guy labelled Chris Grayling”.

“One Napo member spoke out against the privatisation of the service to firms being investigated for corrupt practices.”

Unison union member Pat Jones visited around 30 pickets at Huddersfield Probation Office in west Yorkshire. “Napo and Unison were united on the picket line,” she told Socialist Worker.

“Pickets argued that union leaders should coordinate strikes across unions at the same time.”

Dozens of Napo pickets gathered outside Brighton probation office before staging an impromptu march around the city centre. Strikers vented their anger from behind gates after private security guards broke up a protest outside the Sussex probation service head office (pictured).

Over two dozen strikers joined a picket line in Coventry. One picket asked, “What will companies like Serco, Sodexho and G4S care about offenders or victims?  Support for vulnerable people should never be about making a profit out of them.”

FBU union rep Adam Myers joined Napo pickets in Barnsley, South Yorkshire. “I am here to return the solidarity Napo members showed us by coming our picket line.”

David said the public response to the walkout was “absolutely brilliant”. “Most people don’t know what probation officers do,” he said. “But once they hear we’re striking against the government and privatisation they’re on your side.

“People really hate the government.”

Napo members backed strikes and action short of a strike in a recent ballot. The union will now decide its next steps in the campaign. This could involve a work-to-rule, boycotting certain IT systems or refusing to write reports.

“Judges tend not to sentence without a pre-sentence report,” explained David. “And while our contracted hours are 37 a week, most probation officers work 50 hours.

“We could really clog up the system.”

Thanks to everyone who sent in reports and pictures

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