PROBATION staff in North Wales could go on strike over a row about privatisation of the service.
On Friday trade union Napo made a statement to the Probation Service and the Ministry of Justice to formally register a trade dispute over the Government’s plans to privatise the probation service.
A notice of a ballot for industrial action, including strike action, went out to Napo members employed by the Probation Service in England and Wales, and results are expected in October.
Any action will affect offices in Wrexham and Flint, which employ about 200 staff.
The offices advise Mold Crown and Magistrates Courts and Wrexham Magistrates Court.
Stuart Arrowsmith, Wales vice chairman for Napo said: “You would be hard pressed to find a Napo member in favour of the changes. Probation has prided itself on its good performance record. The Secretary of State, by conflating the argument for reducing re-offending rates for those sentenced to less than 12 months custody (which probation are currently not asked to supervise) and re-offending for those supervised in the community is a slap in the face to all the hard working probation staff in the area.
“Re-offending rates for those supervised by probation staff in the community have come down.”
Under Justice Secretary Chris Grayling’s Transforming Rehabilitation Agenda, the 106-year-old Probation Service was put on sale on September 19.
On March 31 next year 35 local Probation Trusts will be closed to be replaced by a single centrally run public sector service.
Napo say this service will account for just 30 per cent of probation work supervising the high and very high risk of harm offenders.
As a result there will be fewer local offices, less resources and fewer staff.
Napo says the remainder of the work will be moved into 21 Community Rehabitation Companies, also government owned and centrally run.
They will be responsible for supervising the low to medium risk of harm offenders in the community – the very group of people responsible for the majority of serious further offences.
After six months these will then be sold to the cheapest bidder.
Napo general secretary Ian Lawrence said: “The Government’s failure to listen to the experts in the field during that consultation period and to press ahead with an ideological agenda will have a significant impact on public safety.
“Our members, along with other stakeholders, have opposed these plans from the start because we know that by fragmenting the probation service and selling it off to the likes of G4S and Serco will lead to a poorer quality of service and undermine risk management which in turn will put communities at risk.”
Napo members have only been on strike twice in the union’s 101-year history.
Mr Lawrence said: “It’s not something our members take lightly but they feel these proposals will have such an impact on public safety they have no choice but to take a firm stand on this issue on behalf of the communities they serve.”