17 Days Remaining

Saturday 17th
posted by Conrad Landin in Britain

by Conrad Landin
in Eastbourne

A “HYPOCRITE” boss who denied his workers time off for a union conference dodged questions yesterday over whether he had booked holiday to attend the same event.

Probation officers working under the National Offender Management Service (Noms) had previously been given facility time to attend the conference of their union Napo — but the Civil Service has scrapped this allowance as part of vicious attacks on public-sector unions.

Staff asked for professional development leave but were told that they could only attend Napo’s AGM if they booked holiday.

At a panel discussion at the conference yesterday, angry workers said the episode proved that Noms’s purported commitment to good relations with unions was just “lip-service.”

It was then pointed out that Noms industrial relations chief Francis Stuart was sitting in the audience, prompting heckles from union activists who asked if he was subject to the same requirement to classify the conference as a holiday.

When the Star asked Mr Stuart if he himself had taken a day’s leave to attend, he mumbled: “It depends what context you’re asking in, as if it’s going in the paper…” Asked if it was not in the public interest given Noms’s restrictions on union reps, the rattled Mr Stuart changed his tune and said: “I’m taking a day’s leave.”

He then refused to disclose when he had decided to book holiday.

But the Ministry of Justice stoked the confusion further.

When asked if Mr Stuart was officially working yesterday, a departmental spokeswoman said: “He’s there in his official capacity. He was asked to attend by Napo.”

Napo east Anglia branch secretary John Cummins, who was himself forced to take leave, said: “It would seem hypocritical that someone from the same organisation as us was allowed [leave to attend the conference] as an observer, and he’s not even a member of the association.” The union’s assistant general secretary Dean Rodgers added: “Staff in the NHS are given [professional development] leave to attend events [organised by] the royal colleges.

“There’s a whole plethora of issues on which the employers are asking for our professional advice.

“They’re desperate for our input, but they won’t give people one day off to attend a conference.”