Thank you for the many communications from members this week and for sharing your concerns and experiences of the Covid-19 procedures at KU. We are noting and collating all of them and they are feeding into our discussions with management. We are extremely concerned in relation to reports of positive Covid 19 diagnoses not having been dealt with urgently nor any visible protocol followed.
Having, at last, seen the university’s outbreak management plan (1/10/20) we find it fails in many areas and is not fit for purpose. There are still too many vague statements and it lacks real detail of the protocols to be followed in the event of alerts of one or more positive diagnoses.
Additionally, reports from colleagues suggest that even this inadequate plan is not being followed with any rigour. In one case there was still no contact from KU Alert one week after notification of a positive diagnosis on campus. We say this is not acceptable and puts our members, other staff and students at risk.
On Friday your branch representatives wrote to management urgently requesting responses to precise questions about how the Alert system works and what actions are triggered by an alert including,
- Is our alert system working?
- Is anyone tracking the movements of infected individuals across the university?
- Is anyone attempting to trace and risk assess individuals in close contact with infected individuals?
We have not yet received a precise reply and the staff communication issued on Monday 4th October does not inspire confidence that an effective system is in place. Further, the current Coronavirus information available under the green banner on Staffspace directs the user to a powerpoint presentation labelled “latest” and dated 5/10/2020. This presentation includes embedded links to :
- A Health and Safety Plan dated 9th July 2020, v1.4
- A Health and Safety Assessment for which the link does not work
- A COVID-19 Declaration dated 14th July
We say this is evidence that the university is failing to take adequate measures to protect staff and students and provide a safe, working environment as legally required by Health and Safety at Work Act.
KU UCU Branch Committee
An update regarding the current state of play in relation to our ongoing engagement with HR and management.
Branch Update October 2020
We will be holding another extraordinary meeting of the branch soon to discuss next steps – we will notify members of the time and date soon.
This was sent today (21st September) from the Kingston UCU branch committee to the Senior Leadership Team, through the official channel of the Joint Negotiating and Consultative Committee (JNCC):
Dear JNCC colleagues,
KU UCU fervently request that Senior management adopt an immediate change of policy on face to face teaching in TB1.
Prompted by the rapidly changing Covid 19 national situation and particularly the dramatic increases in cases in our city, we request that all teaching be moved online except where face to face teaching is essential on pedagogic grounds.
The university has stated a commitment to review policies if the national situation changes. That time is now!
Further, KU UCU are not satisfied that campuses provide a safe working environment for our staff and students. Despite repeated requests we still have not had satisfactory clarity in relation to many H&S issues, particularly reporting of positive cases, and subsequent testing and tracing. We cannot recommend that our members return to a less than safe working environment. It also looks likely that the London Mayor will call for working from home and essential only use of public transport in the next few days. We believe that asking staff and students to travel and work/ learn on campus at this time puts them at unnecessary risk, particularly when online delivery is a viable and safer alternative.
We are also concerned about reports of strong arm and coercive tactics aimed at pressuring colleagues into returning to campus. We are logging these and will raise with management.
KU UCU branch committee
Kingston UCU branch have been pushing for an enhanced carry over of annual leave days in light of the Covid-19 crisis, as has been implemented in several other universities. We have requested it be possible this year to carry over up to 15 days (the usual 5, plus 10 additional days).
We are also aware of experiences in several Schools and Departments of staff being pressurised to use up all their annual leave even if they didn’t want to, and that, instead of being approved by line mangers, the usual up to 5 days rollover would have be signed off by Deans. This has meant serious disparities and muddled communications across the university.
Our request for additional carry over has been rebutted by senior management, but in doing so they have stated that: ‘We have an existing, agreed leave policy that allows considerable flexibility. You have referenced “the usual” five day carry over and there is flexibility for more days leave than this to be carried-over subject to approval by the relevant Dean/Director of Professional Services.’
We therefore encourage staff to request the carry over that they need, making their case according to their circumstances, and to report back to us when and where this is denied.
Below you can read in full the email message from our Vice-Chair Rosie McNiece to the JNCC (Joint Negotiating and Consultatative Committee) members (11.06.2020):