Update on KU UCU position on return to campus

As promised an update on our current position (as of 17 September 2020):

Firstly, thank you for all your input and communications regarding concerns and experiences related to returning to campus. We have collated, and presented an outline summary of these to management.

KU UCU are holding firm in the opinion that all teaching, in TB1 at least, should be online except in situations where face to face teaching is essential on pedagogic grounds such as laboratory or studio sessions. This concurs with the current advice from UCU national.

The university does not agree with this position and continues to pursue some face to face teaching on all courses regardless of whether the material is suitable for online delivery or not. We had hoped that given recent developments in the national situation, including the increased R infection rate, new government restrictions, and the Covid-19 testing fiasco, that KU management would invoke an immediate review of this blanket policy and make a move towards a policy that reduces the exposure risk for staff and students. We will continue to press this as the best option and the only one acceptable to KU UCU.

In the university’s own documentation there is a commitment from management to review policies if the national situation changes. The national situation has changed at pace over the last two weeks, but there is no evidence of a review of policy, nor indication that such is forthcoming.

We also raised our concerns about reports of strong arm and coercive tactics aimed at pressurising colleagues into returning to campus when they have stated that they are not confident to do so. Management have again assured us that all concerns should be dealt with in a respectful and understanding manner and that no member should feel coerced into returning to campus. See the latest UCU advice on reporting unsafe work environments.

We urge any colleague who feels dissatisfied or uncomfortable about how their concerns have been received or handled to report this to your local branch committee member or to email kingstonucu@gmail.com

Finally, you are probably aware that UCU negotiators have been involved in weekly meetings with management since the beginning of the lockdown period. Throughout we have raised our concerns relating to many aspects of Health and Safety at work (including working from home). While there have been some successes (e.g. mandatory wearing of face masks, movement towards establishing working from home environments that meet legal responsibilities of the employer) we still have a number of serious and outstanding concerns about the safety of the working environment on campus.  We note that a lot of effort has been invested in providing signage, sanitation, increased cleaning etc. and we welcome these initiatives, but our concerns relating to positive case reporting, testing and tracing have still not been answered sufficiently .

Therefore, regrettably, at this point in time we are not in a position to  recommend to members that KU is providing a Covid secure working environment on campus.

We will continue to work with management on behalf of our members to seek clarity in relation to our concerns and to seek resolution in the areas we find problematic.

KU UCU branch committee.

  • Nick Freestone (Chair)
  • Rosie McNiece (Vice-chair)
  • Fatima Felisberti (H&S)
  • Layla Renshaw (Secretary)
  • Emma O Dwyer (Membership secretary)
  • Willem Spanjers (Treasurer)
  • Maggie Gray
  • Georgia Butler
  • Claudia Uller
  • Lucy Parker

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