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Grand National: Animal Rising protesters say they’ll try to stop race from going ahead | UK News

An animal rights group says it will attempt to stop the Grand National from going ahead this afternoon.

Animal Rising activists are planning to scale fences and storm the track – and it’s claimed up to 300 protesters will attend.

Others will block traffic by performing a slow march along the main access route outside Aintree Racecourse.

Spokesperson Nathan McGovern said: “Animal Rising intends to make sure the Grand National doesn’t even begin.

“We know that if the race begins, then horses will likely die as Eclair Surf and Discorama did last year. People will attempt to put their bodies between horses and harm by calling the entire race off.”

According to Mr McGovern, a horse dies every two to three days in UK racing – “and we want to see an end to that”.

He went on to stress that activists plan to act before the race starts, and they would not enter the track if horses and jockeys are riding.

Merseyside Police said they have a “robust policing plan in place” and are working with Aintree’s owners The Jockey Club in preparation for any incidents.

One horse has already died at the Grand National Festival – Envoye Special – after it fell in the Foxhunters’ Chase just after 4pm on Thursday.

It is the 60th horse to have died at Aintree in the past 23 years.

Animal Rising was formerly known as Animal Rebellion, but changed its name earlier this week in order to move away from the umbrella of Extinction Rebellion.

It plans to target the Grand National were made public when an undercover reporter attended a meeting earlier this month.

According to The Mail on Sunday, activists are intending to use ladders and bolt cutters to get through the perimeter fencing at Aintree.

Mr McGovern added: “It’s a spotlight that we really need to be using to push a national conversation about our broken relationship, not only with horses but with all the animals that we use, whether that’s for food, fun, entertainment and dog and horse racing.

“This is very much about a bigger picture of recognising that, in a nation of animal lovers, we’re not really living up to those values with our actions.”

A Merseyside Police spokesperson said: “We respect the right to peaceful protest and expression of views, but public order or criminal offences will not be tolerated and will be dealt with robustly.”

Meanwhile, an Aintree Racecourse representative urged Animal Rising to “reflect on whether their proposed actions are legitimate and responsible”.

They added: “Their actions could endanger the horses they purport to protect, as well as jockeys, officials and themselves.”

‘Major breakthrough’: Most firms say they’ll stick with a four-day working week after successful trial | UK News

The world’s biggest trial of a four-day working week has been hailed a success – with most of the companies involved saying they would continue offering a shorter week.

A total of 61 companies across several sectors in the UK were involved in the pilot, which ran for six months from June last year.

Employers had to make sure there was no reduction in wages for staff who took part in trialling a 32-hour week.

At least 56 out of the 61 firms which took part said they plan to continue with the four-day working week, including The Royal Society Of Biology based in London.

Chief Executive Mark Downs said productivity had increased.

He added: “There’s been a decline in the number of sick days taken during the period of the trial.

“Before the trial, on average, each person would take four or five sick days per year – that’s down to less than two.

“I think it’s a substantial difference.”

Other firms involved in the pilot have had similar experiences.

Research carried out by the University of Cambridge and Boston College found that the number of sick days taken by the 2,900 staff in the trial fell by about two-thirds.

Also, 39% of employees said they were less stressed.

Tessa Gibson, a senior accreditation officer at the Royal Society of Biology, said she would not want to go back to a five-day week – adding: “Weekends can be quite hectic, so it has been quite nice to have that extra day to see your friends and family, and then you get that extra day off during the week to do all your chores or to have that time to relax.

“It has made a big difference to my mental health.”

The COVID pandemic has meant that employers are having to find more flexible working arrangements in order to attract and retain staff, but not all businesses think a four-day week is the solution.

Jay Richards is the co-founder of Imagen Insights, which helps brands gather feedback from young people.

He said a four-day working week often leaves employees feeling like they have to squeeze more work into fewer days.

“I think a four-day week sounds good in principle but in practice how many companies are going to be able to support employees’ wellbeing if they are going from a normal five-day week and cramming that down into four days?

“We do a five-day week but we work 10am to 4pm, we shorten the days so the employees have that work-life harmony but they’re not actually shortening their week, which I think would put more pressure on them.”

The findings of the pilot scheme will be presented to MPs on Tuesday 20 February.

Nurses give government five days to open pay negotiations, or they’ll strike in December | UK News

Nurses have given the government five days to open “detailed negotiations” on pay, or they will announce strike dates for December.

It comes as the chancellor pledged an extra £2.3bn for the next two years for the NHS, as the health service grapples with inflationary pressures.

NHS England had forecast a £7bn shortfall in its funding next year which it cannot plug with efficiency measures alone.

However, health bosses are understood to agree the new funding is adequate against a backdrop where economists hope October’s inflation figure was the peak.

Last week, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) announced its members at the majority of NHS employers across the UK had voted to take strike action.

A health system in crisis

In a letter to the health secretary following Thursday’s autumn statement, RCN general secretary and chief executive Pat Cullen said recent meetings with Steve Barclay, while cordial in tone, had not resolved the issues at the heart of strike action.

“I must not let my members, nor the public confuse these meetings for serious discussions on the issues of NHS pay and patient safety,” she said in the letter.

“There is only value in meeting if you wish to discuss – in formal, detailed negotiations – the issues that have caused our members to vote for strike action.”

She added: “You have again asked to meet in the coming days and for this third occasion I must be clearer in my expectation.”

With record demand and waiting times, as well as a growing backlog ahead of what looks set to be a busy winter, the UK’s health and care system are facing a crisis.

Pat Cullen leaving a meeting with the health secretary earlier this month
Pat Cullen leaving a meeting with the health secretary earlier this month

There are nursing staff shortages across the UK – made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic and cost of living crisis – with 60,000 unfilled nursing roles.

Data from the London School of Economics found the salaries of experienced nurses have declined by 20% in real terms over the last 10 years across most of the UK. This means nurses are effectively working one day a week for free.

The RCN is calling for a pay rise of 5% above inflation to combat this.

Strikes across the NHS

The RCN is not the only organisation threatening strike action within the NHS.

NHS workers in roles such as blood and transplant services were among nearly 10,000 people being balloted over action that could see them walk off the job as soon as January.

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Unite union, which represents 100,000 NHS workers, said voting papers are going out across 36 NHS trusts and organisations in England and Wales.