UCU COVID update / Health and Safety Report, 11/01/21
Roehampton UCU is pleased that the University has addressed the new Government measures announce on Monday 4 January 2021 stating that (with the exception of Nursing and Initial Teacher Training), there will be no face-to-face teaching on campus until mid-February at the earliest. Teaching for most courses will begin as planned from the week commencing 18 January 2021, but this will now be online. However, the committee is concerned to understand why Nursing and ITT (or indeed which parts of these courses) are deemed to require face-to-face teaching. We have called for the university to move all teaching online for the whole of the spring semester. This would send a clear message to staff and students that the university is taking the recent developments regarding the pandemic seriously. The committee believes that moving to online only for the rest of this academic year would reduce anxiety for staff and students about the delivery of teaching during this period.
The Committee is also concerned that some of these exemptions may be too general and that they may undermine the message that the majority of University staff should not come on campus. We are seeking to clarify questions around which services are required on campus and why; what teaching is exempted and why and what research facilities are mentioned in the exemptions.
The committee believes that the fewer people (staff and students) come on campus, the safer it is for those who cannot avoid doing so.
The branch wants to remind members that the Director of Human Resources, Andy Lamb has reiterated the university’s position that no member of staff will be obliged to attend campus remains in place and the university’s approach towards staff will continue to be underpinned by flexibility, support and understanding.
The committee has also asked university management to confirm that all institutional risk assessments have been reviewed and updated. We have asked to review the revised Risk Assessments and the updated Equality Impact Assessments (Working from Home and Return to Campus) as a matter of urgency. The committee has also requested a review of the campus ventilation report submitted in summer 2020 in the light of scientific advice for the new variant. In addition, and in the interest of instilling confidence in the process, we have asked the university to consider using an outside contractor to review ventilation systems rather than the current contractor (who installed and continues to maintain the system). The committee believes that this would avoid any accusations of a conflict of interest.
Roehampton UCU also notes the following announcement regarding asymptomatic coronavirus testing:-
Staff who are working on campus are expected to engage in regular asymptomatic testing.
Testing is part of the approach to keeping our colleagues safe, and whilst not mandatory, regular testing is a highly effective way to identify and respond to the spread of the virus. Staff do not need to provide evidence that they have been tested and as such may access testing local to their home or on-campus.
On-campus testing is free and available from 4 January – 5 February in Montefiore Hall, Froebel College. The test centre is open from 10am-2pm on weekdays. If you are a staff member you do not need to book, simply arrive at the test centre with a mobile device and face covering.
Whilst you do not need to attend testing every time you attend campus, you should attend regularly. This means for example, if you must work on campus five days a week, you should attend twice weekly. If you work on campus for less than five days a week, you should attend once every week and if you work on campus occasionally, you should attend every time you come to campus.
If you test positive, please return home as soon as possible and contact email@example.com. If you feel unwell with coronavirus symptoms you must not attend campus until you have received a negative test. If you have any questions, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally, UCU notes that the university states ‘if colleagues require written confirmation that they are regarded as a key worker (for example for their child / children’s school), this can be provided by HR.’ The committee has reported its reservations to the university about the ethical implications of defining staff as ‘key workers’ and have requested the university provide evidence from the Department of Education that defines HE staff as such. In any event, we note that government guidance still requires key workers who can work from home to do so and to keep their children at home too.
For further information, please see: https://www.ucu.org.uk/covid19.
If you have any concerns, please get in touch with UCU’s Health and Safety Representatives, Patrick Brady and Mark Riley at: email@example.com