Chas Berry, Napo national vice chair (personal capacity)
Probation and family court workers organised in Napo left their AGM last week with a new mood of determination to rebuild their union.
Overcoming significant barriers to achieve a representative conference, with many members having been refused time off by their employers to attend, the AGM agreed changes giving incentives to new joiners and those switching to direct debit. This is an important weapon in our battle to fend off the attempt to crush the union financially through the withdrawal of ‘check-off’.
In each debate, speaker after speaker linked the attacks upon us with the need to join with others in the fight against the trade union bill. Guest speaker Steve Gillan, general secretary of the Prison Officers Association, received a big ovation when he urged members to look beyond our immediate battles and to recognise the need for generalised strike action.
Conference was also addressed by shadow lord chancellor and justice secretary Lord Falconer. Significantly, he was criticised about Labour’s record in office and in particular over building more private prisons and for passing laws that allowed probation privatisation.
Disappointingly, like his predecessor Sadiq Khan, he stopped short of committing Labour to tear up current private probation contracts to union busting firms like Sodexo.
This was perhaps the most political AGM for a number of years. Reflecting the wider anti-austerity mood, fringe meetings linking Napo’s campaigns with others in the justice field and beyond were the best attended and most enthusiastic of all the sessions.
The first ever Socialist Party fringe meeting attracted 20 members; sixteen copies of the Socialist, six Kill The Bill pamphlets and three copies of Socialism Today were sold, showing a renewed interest in socialist ideas.