A PROFIT-HUNGRY privateer running part of Britain’s probation service is to sack more than 400 probation officers.
Sodexo is also proposing to cough up less than half the redundancy payments to which the 436 affected staff are entitled.
One of the unions involved said the sackings would adversely affect offenders, giving them less chance of rehabilitation when face-to face-contact with probation officers disappears.
Former justice secretary Chris Grayling awarded Sodexo six out of the 21 probation services privatised in February this year.
The contracts were “cherry picked,” handing the simplest cases to the private sector and leaving the probation service to continue dealing with more complex cases.
Sodexo operates community rehabilitation centres in Northumbria, Cumbria and Lancashire, South Yorkshire, Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk and Essex.
Members of three unions — GMB, Unison and the National Association of Probation Officers (Napo) — are involved.
Napo national officer Tania Bassett said there were worries about the effect on offenders.
“Our concerns from the beginning have not just been our members and their jobs,” she said.
“Offenders will not be being offered the quality of service that the probation service previously offered, in particular, access to rehabilitation programmes.”
Ms Bassett warned that they would also lose the face-to-face contact essential to building relationships between probation officers and offenders.
Unison national officer Ben Priestley pointed out that Sodexo made a £39.6 million operating profit last year, “so the company’s pleas that giving staff their contractual entitlement to redundancy pay is too expensive rings very hollow for our members.
“The company should do the decent thing and pay up now.”
A Sodexo justice services spokesman said that it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.