Community Safety minister Paul Wheelhouse refuses to rule out compulsory redundancies after community justice shake-up
Insiders raise concerns over loss of highly-trained staff ahead of eight community justice authorities being abolished
Community safety and legal affairs minister Paul Wheelhouse has refused to rule out compulsory redundancies in the wake of Scotland’s community justice system being overhauled.
MSPs yesterday passed the Community Justice Bill, paving the way for eight community justice authorities to be abolished in favour of more local arrangements and a national body – Community Justice Scotland – to be set up.
Wheelhouse has confirmed that current CJA employees are not subject to the Scottish Government’s pay policy - which applies to public bodies - and are therefore not protected by a policy of no compulsory redundancies.
Holyrood understands up to two dozen staff - including training and development officers employed by local authorities - could be affected following the decision to scrap Scotland’s CJAs and introduce a new set of arrangements next April.
“The truth of the matter, whatever way you want to dress it up or down, is that we are being made compulsory redundant,” a CJA source told Holyrood. “That ‘c word’ is a word that government doesn’t want to use because to date people working for the public sector haven’t been.”
Ministers are “satisfied that the bill does not create a Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations situation” for the new national body, Wheelhouse told MSPs yesterday.
“The functions of the CJAs will not transfer to Community Justice Scotland when it is established, so the employees of CJAs will not automatically move to Community Justice Scotland under the operation of TUPE or the Cabinet Office statement of practice,” he said.
“Whether TUPE would apply to the transfer of CJA employees to local authorities will be a matter for local authorities as potential employers to consider.”
CJAs were established as local government bodies and as such “their employees are not subject to the public sector pay policy or the no compulsory redundancy policy,” Wheelhouse said.
Government officials are working with the CJAs and local authorities to "minimise as far as possible any job losses when CJAs are disestablished and that, where that cannot be avoided, staff will be appropriately compensated", he told MSPs.
Asked by Scottish Conservative justice spokeswoman Margaret Mitchell if there could still be some compulsory redundancies, Wheelhouse added: “I will happily come back to the member on that. Detailed negotiations are taking place at local level, and there are different policies in place across the eight different CJAs.
“I will respond to the member after the meeting, because there are sensitivities around the negotiations with employees.”
According to a CJA source, staff have still not been given details of their severance packages - despite being told information would initially be provided almost a year ago. While acknowledging that not all staff would wish to TUPE over, insiders fear not having the opportunity to do so could see skilled staff - such as training and development officers - lost.
“Training and development officers provide training to criminal justice social work staff,” said a CJA source. “Criminal justice social work staff, like a lot of other partners such as the police and health, have to undertake mandatory training for the provision of risk assessments for high-risk offenders, they need to undertake accredited training for accredited programmes for sex offenders and other high-risk offenders.
“They have a unique skillset and it is a skillset that somebody cannot acquire within a short space of time. My concern is how you ensure that staff will continue to be trained.
"Government will say they can apply for the new local or national bodies but I don’t think that is a satisfactory response. At the end of the day, if you’ve got a unique skillset that you require you should be doing everything you can to sustain, maintain and nurture that.”
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