6.30pm 19 March 2020, the following Open Letter to the Vice Chancellor was sent from the Kingston UCU Branch Committee on behalf of academic staff from across the university, expressing their concern for non-academic colleagues in light to the Covid-19 pandemic. It is still open for signatories (KU academic staff only please).
‘To: Kingston University Vice-Chancellor Steven Spier
18 March 2020
We welcome the suspension of face-to-face teaching this week, as well as the decision to shut KSA workshops, as recognition of the unprecedented scale of the global Covid-19 pandemic and the responsibility Kingston University shares in minimising the spread of the virus through reducing the number of people on campus and enabling working from home.
However, as academic members of staff we are very concerned about the situation of our colleagues in administrative, technical, security, facilities management, cleaning, catering, and library roles who may be currently required to work ‘as usual’ on campus until Sunday 22nd March, with a phased reduction then ‘considered’ only where ‘operationally this can be achieved’.
We strongly believe that there can be no ‘as usual’ approach in this context and asking non-academic staff to continue to work on campus (where stocks of hand sanitiser and wipes are running low and staff are having to bring in their own supplies) constitutes an unacceptable risk for both for staff and the students who may continue to use the library and other face-to-face services. Across the country, universities are closing their buildings to the public to ensure the safety of students, staff and the local community, and we ask you to show similar leadership.
Kingston University has a legal responsibility for the welfare and safety of all staff and students, and should not require staff to place their health at risk in the course of their employment. Section 7 of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974, places a duty on every employee to take reasonable care both for their own health and safety and that of other people who may be affected by their acts or omissions at work. Section 44 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 empowers any employee to remove themselves from circumstances of danger.
We ask that the University suspend library services immediately, directing students to online resources instead. We ask that laboratories are shut down in a safe manner with due consideration to all hazards.We ask that clear communication is provided to all staff confirming that suspending work on campus and/or working from home is acceptable and encouraged.
Furthermore, we ask that any staff who decide to stay at home in an effort to safeguard their health and the health of those around them will not be penalised through deductions to pay, or face any threat of disciplinary action for taking actions which they deem responsible and appropriate during a public health crisis. We ask that the University guarantee the income and job security of all workers who are out-sourced and / or on zero-hours contracts, such as Elior catering staff. We ask that the university openly publish these commitments.
We expect these issues to be addressed and action taken promptly.
Kingston UCU Branch Committee, and Kingston academic staff’
Kingston UCU continues to request an emergency Joint Negotiating and Consultative Committee (JNCC) meeting between senior management, HR, ourselves and the other recognised trade unions.