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News Report Page 8 of 12
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Staff at Liverpool Hope join UK wide University strike

STAFF at Liverpool Hope University downed tools in a strike that will run for 5 days over pay and working conditions. They will be on picket lines on every day of action. Their demands include a ₤2.5k pay rise for all University employees.

The latest retail price index figures of 7.8% mean the University and College Union (UCU) estimates staff pay has fallen by more than a quarter (25.5%) in real terms since 2009. University employer representative, the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) has refused to budge on its offer of a paltry 1.5% increase on existing salaries for 2021/22.

Liverpool Hope is 1 of 24 institutions hit with strike action today. Its staff join UCU members at 44 Universities, including the University of Liverpool, that walked out last week over a 35% cut to their guaranteed pension income.

In total 68 Universities are being hit with strike action lasting up to 10 days. The full strike dates, with numbers of institutions involved, are:-

USS pension dispute only, 44 institutions ran over 5 days, starting on:- Monday, 14 February and ending on Friday, 18 February 2022.

Both the pension and the pay and working conditions dispute, 68 institutions took part on 2 days:- Monday, 21 February and Tuesday, 22 February 2022.

The next days of action are over day and working conditions. This dispute will see 63 institutions taking part over 3 days:- Monday, 28 February, Tuesday, 1 March 2022 and Wednesday, 2 March 2022.

New inflation figures mean UCU estimates staff pay is now down by 25.5% since 2009. Over 70,000 academics are employed on insecure contracts. The gender pay gap in UK Universities sits at 16%, whilst the disability pay gap is 9% and the race pay gap is up to 17%. Staff are also experiencing a crisis of work-related stress with over half showing probable signs of depression.

Staff striking over pay and working conditions are demanding an end to the race, gender and disability pay injustice; a framework to eliminate zero-hours and other insecure contracts; meaningful action to tackle unmanageable workloads; as well as a ₤2.5k pay rise for all University employees.

Staff are also engaged in action short of a strike (ASOS) which involves working strictly to contract, not covering for absent colleagues, not rescheduling lectures or classes cancelled due to strike action, or undertaking any voluntary activities. UCEA has authorised bosses to withhold the pay of staff taking ASOS.

On the pension dispute, UCU is due to meet employer representatives from Universities UK (UUK) at the Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC). The JNC has until Monday, 28 February 2022, to determine what changes to make to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) pension. UCU has submitted compromise proposals which were confirmed as implementable by the USS trustee that runs the scheme. UK must decide whether to push ahead with cuts of 35% to University staff's guaranteed retirement income or whether it is willing to work with UCU and resolve the pension dispute.

The union said Universities can more than afford to meet the demands of staff. University finance figures show total income across the sector is around ₤41.9bn with reserves of ₤46.8bn. On average, vice-chancellors enjoy full pay packages of ₤269k per year. Students supporting the strikes have occupied University buildings and the National Union of Students (NUS) is supporting staff taking action. It has organised a student strike, on Wednesday, 2 March 2022.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said:- "While the University sector continues to bring in tens of billions of pounds each year, the staff who make it work have been forced to endure 13 years of real-term pay cuts and the indignity of trying to make ends meet on exploitative and insecure contracts. Vice-Chancellors on eye-watering salaries have serious questions to answer as to why they have allowed staff pay to fall by over 25% since 2009, further exposing them to the cost of living crisis. Staff aren't asking for the world, they want secure contracts, decent pay, manageable workloads and for employers to end their vindictive attacks on pensions. But instead of listening to the longstanding concerns of their own workforce, employers have pushed them to breaking point and now half are reporting signs of depression. During these strikes, the support of students has been overwhelming. In their thousands, they have lobbied their Vice-Chancellors and we are proud that on Wednesday, 2 March 2022, they will be taking UK wide strike action alongside staff. It's high-time this world-leading sector stopped dining off the goodwill and dedication of its staff and started treating them with dignity.'"

HMP Liverpool to be refurbished to create more prison places

HMP Liverpool will be part of an unprecedented expansion and refurbishment programme, creating more than 4,000 new prison places across the country, Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab has recently been announced. These new places are part of the Government's ₤4bn investment to create 20,000 modern and innovative prison places, ensuring the right conditions are in place to truly rehabilitate prisoners. This will give prisoners the education, skills and addiction support they need to live crime-free lives on release, helping to cut crime and protect the public.  HMP Liverpool is to be refurbished to create around 350 prison places. In total, 8 prisons will receive new house blocks while HMP High Down in Surrey will see a brand new workshop. The new designs will mean easier access to supporting facilities such as healthcare, kitchens and staff offices which will help to protect frontline staff and clamp down on crime behind bars.  New workshops and classrooms will also see offenders getting vital work and training so they are able to find work on release.  7 other prisons will also receive comprehensive refurbishments as part of a wider ₤150m investment in the estate to help bring all jails into the 21st Century.

Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary Dominic Raab, said:- "Our prison building programme will deliver an extra 20,000 prison places by the mid-2020s to punish offenders, deter crime and protect the public. We are also overhauling the prison regime, using prison design, in-cell technology, abstinence-based drug rehabilitation and work to drive down re-offending."

This announcement is the latest step in the Government's commitment to create 20,000 modern and innovative prison places by the mid-2020's. The 2 new prisons at Wellingborough and Glen Parva have already created over 500 jobs and over 70 apprenticeships during construction, and when open are expected to offer over a thousand permanent jobs; providing a significant boost to the local economy. Thousands of new jobs will also be created at the sixteen sites with local opportunities in construction and additional Prison Officer roles. These modern jails; and the new blocks will also cut reoffending and protect the public by giving prisoners the education, skills and addiction support they need to live crime-free lives on release. The prison population is expected to increase as the UK Government cracks down on crime and recruits new Police Officers. At the same time in its recent Prisons White Paper, the Ministry of Justice pledged to commence a large-scale recruitment campaign for up to 5,000 additional Prison Officers in public and private prisons.

Did 'Clean' energy partner causes Liverpool Bay oil spill and risk to public health?

ENI is a key partner of the HyNetNW energy project, and Friends of The Earth say the recent incident in Liverpool Bay:- "must call into question the partnership's ability to achieve its declaration to 'promote clean growth." In a press statement, we have received from them, they go on to say:- "At the same time as this section of ENI's 'tried and tested' infrastructure has failed, HyNetNW is undertaking public consultation on a proposed new network of hydrogen carrying pipes, deemed central to the project. Should it go ahead, the project will also be reliant on piping climate-wrecking carbon dioxide, a by-product of 'blue hydrogen' to be stored in ENI's old workings under Liverpool BayDon."

Naylor from Liverpool Friends of The Earth said:- "We are in a climate emergency and we need to act quickly. These proposed technologies for a new energy network are unproven at scale and that's a problem. Further, the new network would be reliant on partners whose 'tried and tested' infrastructure, as has again been demonstrated in Liverpool Bay, cannot be trusted to operate safely."

James O'Keeffe of the Sefton Climate Action Group added:- "With Sefton Council now warning residents to avoid resultant 'potentially harmful substances' on local beaches, and tarballs now reported on beaches in Blackpool [note 1], we really need to question ENI's corporate environmental and social credentials. At a global level, we know these are poor, with ENI embroiled in fossil fuel projects globally, including Northern Mozambique, where communities have been devastated and vital climate targets ignored. We have to urge our decision-makers, in Liverpool City Region and beyond, to carefully scrutinise these perspectives before it's too late"

Pete Benson of Chester Friends of The Earth noted:- "At a recent public debate held in Chester, it became clear that it would be naive of us to accept at face value everything that HyNetNW and ENI tell us they can deliver. In addition to the inherent risks with their technologies, it is vital that the greater potential of other true green energy enablers: wind, solar, tidal and heat pumps, to deliver on climate targets and secure green jobs is not overlooked. When you think about it, it's strange that we're seriously considering the dependence on a global fossil fuel company, who continue to sell gas at inflated prices, to get us out of the mess they've helped create"

What are your thoughts on the? Please do let us know by emailing us to:- News24@SouthportReporter.Com.


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