A 24-hour industrial action has been held in the UK with thousands of probation officers walking out their jobs in what is said to be the 4th such strike in the probation service's 106-year history.
The strike action was held on Tuesday in protest at the government’s scheme to sell off 70 percent of the work to private sector, according to the National Association of Probation Officers (Napo), which is comprised of 7,500 members.
"These are unprecedented times for our members as they fight to save the 106-year-old probation service. They strongly believe, along with other criminal justice agencies and experts that [the Justice Secretary] Chris Grayling's plans will undermine public protection and put communities at risk whilst also not providing the adequate service offenders need to turn their lives around," said Ian Lawrence, Napo's general secretary.
The justice secretary has introduced a payment-by-results basis under which private companies, charities and probation "mutuals" have been invited to bid to take over the supervision of 225,000 medium and low-risk offenders.
Under the plan, 21 "community rehabilitation companies" will supervise those released from prison and those serving community punishments, according to Napo.
Meanwhile, the strike comes amid a formal criminal probe launched into two major potential bidders, G4S and Serco by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO). G4S and Serco are accused of overcharging the justice ministry over contracts to provide electronic tagging of offenders.
"It is wholly unacceptable that these two companies are allowed to bid for the Probation Service while still under investigation for fraud regarding tagging and given their recent track records with the Olympics, private prisons and prison transport,” said Lawrence.
Last month, Napo members voted by 84.4 percent at their Annual General Meeting to walk out their jobs in protest against the UK government’s privatization plans.