Update from Health & Safety Rep

The latest news from our Health & Safety Rep, Fatima Felisberti:

Overview of Lockdown (local or otherwise) 

Kingston University H&S team is devising plans and considering closing buildings (or parts of them) in response to any new Covid-19 cases. In the event of a general London lockdown, I was told that:

the university will need to follow stipulations from Government and would move to having as many people working at home as possible and would aim to provide as much teaching online as possible. This would be the case for any other type of lockdown, local or specific to KU”.

Vulnerable staff
We were told at the Joint Negotiating and Consultative Committee (JNCC) meetings that vulnerable staff would not be forced to be on campus for face-to-face meetings, but the staff in that group would have to talk to ther line manager in advance and arrange for alternative options. I have asked about how to address any eventual disagreements, but nobody replied to my question yet.
.

The Covid-19 Secure Risk Assessment and Re-Opening Health & Safety Plan have been published on StaffSpace:https://kingstonuniversity.sharepoint.com/sites/staffspace/news/Pages/Health-and-safety-in-buildings.aspx – links at bottom of the page. [NB. these are not the most up-to-date versions of these documents]


Further details about possible lockdowns, track and tracing plans, and cleaning:

Results of June Health & Safety Survey

Thank you to those members who recently completed our survey on experiences of working from home and health and safety issues.
The full report is available here – please do take a read:
.
.
The report really demonstrates the wide range of issues which staff are managing while working from home, some of which are having clear impacts on their well-being. It also indicates the widespread dissatisfaction there is with the University’s response to health and safety issues and the way it has communicated with staff, and further indicates significant concerns around the proposed model for campus reopening which proposes to allow for 30% face-to-face teaching.
.
Thank you again for giving your views on these difficult issues with us. We will share this report with management (all individual responses are unidentifiable) and continue to raise these issues in our ongoing discussions regarding health and safety and campus reopening.

Wellbeing working from home and casualisation

Here’s a couple of articles members might be interested in:

On wellbeing working from home and why online working can be more tiring and stressful, see ‘The reason Zoom calls drain your energy‘ from BBC Worklife.

On casualisation and Covid-19 being used to target staff on casual and short-term contracts see ‘Covid-19 shows up UK universities’ shameful employment practices‘ by Stefan Collini for the Guardian.

At the recent KU UCU Branch meeting a #CoronaContract motion was passed to call on Kingston University support and protect the jobs of all staff on casual contracts and PhD students.

And the branch committee continues to urge all members to conduct a workstation assessment in view of health and safety considerations under working from home conditions.

Health & Safety update: Home workstation self-assessment

KU UCU branch committee highly recommends that members who are working from home carry out a workstation self-assessment as a matter of urgency.

Your employer has a legal obligation to abide by Health & Safety guidelines while you are working from home. If you feel that you are at risk or have concerns about your working environment you should raise these with your line manager. Please feel free to also alert your Kingston UCU branch officers.  

To help you conduct a self-assessment there are guidelines from the Health and Safety Executive. The university’s current guidance can be found Staffspace along with FAQs about setting up home workstations. There is also an online training module on setting up and assessing your workstation. Staff can request to join this module by emailing safety@kingston.ac.uk

Kingston UCU Covid-19 update (from JNCC meeting March 24)

On Tuesday 24th March UCU representatives, along with our partner unions, met formally with KU senior management at a Joint Negotiating and Consultative Committee (JNCC) meeting to discuss actions and reactions to the current national Covid-19 emergency.

In the interim between scheduling and the meeting taking place, the situation had moved rapidly nationally and some of the concerns had already been addressed either by KU themselves or by government instruction.

Some of the key areas of concern for our members were:

Continue reading

UCU Working from Home Guidance

UCU circulated this very useful guidance on home working and universities’ responsibilities in relation to this. Please do take a read as you may wish to discuss these issues with your line managers: https://www.ucu.org.uk/media/10830/UCU-guidance-on-working-from-home-and-teaching-online/pdf/ucu_workfromhome_guide_mar202.pdf
.
This guidance is of course informing our discussions with management regarding the transition to home working.
.
Please just get in touch if we can offer help or advice.

 

Covid-19 Open Letter from Kingston academic staff in support of non-academic colleagues

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.

Signed,

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.

 

Coronavirus

The UCU has drawn up general advice about the coronavirus in line with the government, NHS and Public Health England’s guidance:

UCU_updated_coronavirus_advice (last updated 10 March 2020)

Kingston University is following government and NHS advice. KU UCU has asked for regular local updates to be provided to staff.

Staffspace and My Kingston are being updated regularly, as are FAQs for staff.