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COVID-19: Health and Safety Correspondence with University Management following EJJNC (29/9/20)

Following the EJJNC on Tuesday (29th September), TU representatives from Unite and Unison wrote to the senior management team setting out clearly what they would like the University to do. You can read our email below:

Dear Richard, Mark and Alex,

We write on behalf of the three campus trades unions to express our frustration at the outcome of the EJJNC we attended today (29/09/20). This meeting was intended to resolve outstanding issues with the University’s back to campus plans. Key issues, particularly current and pressing health and safety concerns in both university accommodation and on campus were not addressed satisfactorily.These were detailed in the email written by health and safety reps of all three unions and sent on the 7th September. These questions were not answered at EJJNC. 

We reiterate that we are not happy with the back to campus plans as they currently stand and ask for the University to consider revising the current status of the University from Tier 1 to Tier 3 in light of the fact that the national threat level has been raised to Level 4. The majority of students would then study online,with in-person teaching activities restricted to those practical or clinical courses for which they are pedagogically necessary. This allows the University to limit the numberof people on campus, allows staff and students on campus to work more safely and ensures a much higher level of safety for all members of the University community and our neighbours. It also enables us to continue to support students who must remain on campus for other reasons (care leavers, disadvantaged students, students with families, for example) and to keep them safe. Our priority must be to reduce the footfall on campus to the lowest level possible for the sake of those who cannot avoid it as well as those who canOur views are based on the national infection rate, which is increasing, and the experiences of other universities, which have seen a spike in cases, potentially endangering the health of staff, students and members of local communities. These universities have been forced to confine students to halls; the impact on their physical and mental health and wellbeing must not be underestimated.

In addition, we are asking that where staff can work from home, they should continue to do so. Where staff need to be at home and cannot work from home, they should continue to be paid.We are disappointed that the University has refused requests from some clinically vulnerable staff and staff living with clinically vulnerable people to work from home, and note that in some cases it appears to have failed to undertake risk assessments prior to the return to the workplace of vulnerable staff members. This is unacceptable.

The three campus trades unions urge University management to listen to our concerns and urgently review their decision to bring all students back to campus regardless of pedagogical necessityGiven the urgency of the situation, we would appreciate your response by 17:00 1st October

Lucy Watson (UCU)

Adam George Dunn (UCU)

Naomi Gravett (Unite)

Alastair Dilworth (Unite)

Gwendoline Barrett-Gordon (Unison)

As of 3pm on Friday 2nd October, the senior management team have not responded. It is SUCU’s intention to contact local councillors and our elected representatives for support.

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