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Covid-19 prisons

Novus members vote overwhelming to proceed to industrial action ballot over health & safety issues

29 January 2021

UCU members in the Novus prison education branch have voted overwhelmingly by 77.9% to proceed to an industrial action ballot on a fantastic 57.2% turnout.

UCU will now take steps to seek authorisation from its national officers to progress to a statutory ballot. Further details will be circulated next week.

Big congratulations to all of our UCU reps for their amazing Get The Vote Out effort. They were joined earlier in the week by UCU general secretary Jo Grady who helped phone bank members.

The branch officers also actioned the AGM vote of no confidence in the CEO of LTE Group John Thornhill by writing to the board of governors earlier today. You can read the officers' letter here.

The news comes as we are hearing more disturbing reports from members on sites, including two assaults in the youth estate on prison education staff, further Covid-19 outbreaks within education departments, and a refusal to allow prison education staff to receive the vaccine at a prison where they have started offering the vaccine to HMPPS staff.

Current position

Novus continue to be the only major prison education provider who are not engaging with UCU on the critically important aspects of keeping you safe at work.

Contrary to John Thornhill's communications, we can confirm that Novus have refused to meet elected UCU representatives in the context of the current lockdown and the new Covid-19 variant, despite several attempts to request a meeting.

UCU representatives remain ready, willing, and able to meet with Novus as a priority.

What next?


Novus has failed to respond to the 'failure to agree' letter within the 10 day time frame. UCU national officials will now give notice of a trade dispute between staff and Novus, over Novus' refusal to meaningfully engage with UCU on matters relating to your health and safety during the current lockdown and new variant.


We have engaged our press & public affairs team to support our campaign, including political lobbying via our justice unions parliamentary group. Letters have been prepared to be sent to ministers at the MoJ and HMPPS next week.

We are aware of further unhelpful tweets, this time from the Novus twitter account. These tweets make reference to untruthful allegations and statements about UCU. Please be assured that we will be responding to these social media statements in due course. To be clear, no complaints have been received by UCU from any UCU member, and despite his 5-page letter, no evidence has been provided to substantiate Mr Thornhill's claims.

The general secretary will be responding to Mr Thornhill.

Your support for our campaign to keep you safe at work makes the union stronger and makes you safer at work.

To keep up dated please follow the new (and official!!) prison education Twitter account @UCUprisoned.

In solidarity

Marianne Quick
Bargaining & negotiations official

Last updated: 26 July 2021