Privatisation strike ballot for probation staff over future of the service

Unison members on protest outside of the probation office in Avenue Road
Unison members on protest outside of the probation office in Avenue Road

PROBATION staff are being balloted for strike action in a row over the future of the service.

Workers at Durham Tees Valley Probation Trust are involved in the national ballot by the National Association of Probation Officers (NAPO), the trade union and professional association for probation and family court staff.

It comes after union members took part in a protest outside Hartlepool Magistrates’ Court over the privatisation of the service and town MP Iain Wright pledged to hand over a petition signed by 35 workers.

The protests coincided with a vast chunk of the probation service being put up for sale by the Government under controversial reforms.

On March 31 next year, 35 probation trusts will be closed down, including Durham Tees Valley Probation Trust, and will be replaced by a single centrally run public sector service. That will account for an estimated 30 per cent of probation work supervising the high risk of harm offenders.

Jan Bateman, a senior probation officer and vice chairman of Durham Tees Valley branch of Napo, said: “Balloting for strike action reflects our members’ concern for risks to public safety and reoffending rates, as well as worries over staff terms and conditions.

Napo has only been on strike twice in the union’s 101-year history. Ian Lawrence, general secretary of Napo, said: “It’s not something our members take lightly but they feel that these proposals will have such an impact on public safety that they have no choice but to take a firm stand on this issue on behalf of the communities they serve.”

Justice Minister Jeremy Wright said there are contingency arrangements in place.