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Wave of strikes at 49 prisons over Covid-19 concerns set to continue

2 June 2021

Staff in 49 prisons across England are set to go on strike again in a health and safety dispute with employer Novus, UCU confirmed today.

Around 600 UCU members working in prison education are set to walk out of 49 prison and young offender institutions across England on Thursday 10 and Wednesday 23 June. The latest set of walkouts have been called because Novus has refused to meaningfully engaged with UCU's concerns despite staff already taking two days of strike action in May.

The dispute centres on Novus' failure to meaningfully engage with UCU over Covid-19 health and safety concerns of prison educators teaching and supporting learners on the prison estate. Novus has launched complaints and investigations against UCU's health and safety representatives, making it difficult for staff to raise safety concerns and impossible for any meaningful health and safety discussions to take place.

Novus is the biggest prison education employer in the UK and is owned by parent company LTE Group. Yesterday Liz Saville Roberts MP wrote to the board members of LTE Group as co-chair of the Justice Unions Parliamentary Group, which comprises over 100 cross-party parliamentarians. She urged the board to prioritise staff health and safety and to withdraw any threats of action against UCU branch representatives. LTE Group meet on Tuesday 15 June.

UCU has met with Novus multiple times to try to resolve the dispute through ACAS, the government funded body set up to resolve industrial issues. But Novus has refused to drop investigations into UCU health and safety representatives.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: 'For Novus to end this continuing wave of strike action all it needs to do is stop its bullying behaviour, withdraw the unfair complaints and investigations against our health and safety representatives, and take staff safety concerns seriously. Instead, its bosses seem willing to risk two further days of strike action across 49 prisons and the censure of a prominent parliamentary group.

'The board members of Novus' parent company, LTE Group, are meeting on Tuesday 15 June. It is time for them to step in, end Novus' bully-boy tactics and work with us to resolve the dispute. Until they do so UCU will continue to support prison educators to take industrial action and protect themselves.'

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