Prison educators end long-running health and safety dispute

Updated: Oct 28, 2021

A long running dispute between prison educators at 49 prisons in England and employer Novus has ended after the employer agreed to University and College Union (UCU's) demands to address health & safety concerns raised by prison educators.

Around 600 staff at multiple prisons took four days of strike action between April and June 2021 after Covid-19 safety concerns were allegedly not addressed.

UCU said the deal means its members will now be much safer at work. Novus, who had previously launched an investigation against union members that raised health & safety concerns have dropped their claims.

New measures to be implemented, following talks at the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), include “improved risk assessment processes and systems of work to protect the health, safety, and wellbeing of prison education staff”.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: "Our prison educators have been steadfast in their determination to ensure their working conditions are safe. Covid brutally exposed the many health & safety failings within the prison estate and through unprecedented strike action across 49 prisons our members have made prisons safer for both learners and teachers.

Grady congratulated every member who took industrial action and also thanked Novus who she said made important commitments on health and safety.

UCU prison branch chair Brian Hamilton said: "At the end of this protracted dispute UCU members should be proud of their efforts and their willingness to engage in the industrial relations process in a positive solutions-based manner. This has resulted in an agreement that makes work safer and provides a model for collaborative working between staff and Novus."