Statement: Novus/UCU industrial action
Last reviewed: Tuesday 22 June 2021
LTE Group is an exempt charity and public sector body dedicated to education and training.
Novus, part of LTE Group, specialises in the delivery of a broad range of technical and vocational training programmes within custodial settings.
Novus and UCU have a working relationship dating back almost 10 years. Historically, working relations between UCU and Novus have been positive and productive, particularly during the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In January, two key events triggered a decline in the relationship:
- LTE Group declined to agree to 13 UCU demands for changes to its Health & Safety procedures (a) outside of Risk Management processes that are mandatory across the LTE Group and which UCU are familiar with; (b) without the agreement of HMPPS who have ultimate authority over Health & Safety in prison establishments, and, (c) with less than 24 hours’ notice to properly assess the effects of these changes.
- A number of UCU members who are also LTE Group employees chose to report concerns directly to LTE about the behaviours and approach of some UCU representatives. The allegations were serious in nature and extended to intimidation and bullying. These members felt they could not report such concerns to UCU directly. LTE in its capacity as employer therefore reported these issues to UCU on behalf of these employees/members and requested that UCU take appropriate action to investigate and resolve. UCU’s position is that we cannot have ‘meaningful engagement’ about health and safety matters until allegations against their representatives are withdrawn. LTE has repeatedly informed UCU that it is neither LTE nor Novus making allegations against representatives but some of the union’s own members who have chosen to report concerns directly to their employer out of fear of reprisals should they report matters directly to the union. This position from UCU has led to the current impasse.
These events have led to an increasingly strained relationship between UCU and Novus, culminating in a ballot for industrial action and a two day strike on 11th and 12th May. Attempts to resolve the issues with the support of ACAS (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) were unsuccessful. We remain open to progressing further discussions to resolve the situation to a satisfactory conclusion.
Matters have been inflamed by UCU making a number of false allegations against Novus and LTE Group. Our Board of Trustees, mindful of the high standards of integrity and probity all organisations involved in the public sector, including trade unions, should operate under have requested evidence in support of such allegations but none has been provided. Despite UCU’s false allegations to the contrary, neither Novus nor LTE Group has at any point:
- Refused to meet with UCU to discuss Health & Safety matters;
- Refused or ignored requests to meet jointly with ACAS;
- Made it difficult for Group employees or UCU representatives to report Health & Safety concerns;
- Intimidated or bullied UCU representatives.
UCU’s persistent misrepresentation of Novus to its employees and more widely in the public domain is a matter of grave concern for the Group. Such false allegations are damaging to employee trust in their employer and continue to erode a previously good working relationship between employer and union.