We have to continue to push for a commitment from the University Executive Board (UEB) that no member of staff should be asked to work face to face during the pandemic against their own judgement, due to risk to themselves or their household members. This is a similar position to that taken by other universities (see here the statement from Sussex University for example).
We are planning an indicative ballot for industrial action to run in January and will launch a public campaign on the 4th January to expose the level of pressure that some of our members are feeling. There is a Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC) meeting on the 12th January which will be another opportunity for the University to change its position and avoid potential industrial action. We hope that our campaign and a strong vote for industrial action in the indicative ballot will be enough to convince the University to take action to protect its vulnerable staff.
If anyone is able to help with the dispute campaign, please join our first Campaign Committee meeting on the 4th January at 12h30 via zoom:
Topic: UCU Cardiff Campaign Meeting
Time: Jan 4, 2021 12:30 PM London
Join Zoom Meeting
If you have been told to return to campus and you do not feel it is safe for you to do so, raise your concerns with you line manager. There is guidance on risk assessments, employers’ legal duties and how to raise concerns on our website here.
Guidance from Welsh Government indicates that there is a requirement to work from home where practicable. We understand this to mean that face-to-face teaching that is not necessary should be avoided. If your manager says they are unable to agree to working from home, ask them to explain why it is not reasonably practicable to work from home.
The attached briefing sets out the legal position on health and safety in the workplace and includes advice on Section 44 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 allowing employees to remove themselves (a) in circumstances of danger which the employee reasonably believed to be serious and imminent and which they could not reasonably have been expected to avert, they left (or proposed to leave) or (while the danger persisted) refused to return to their place of work or any dangerous part of their place of work, or (e) in circumstances of danger which the employee reasonably believed to be serious and imminent, they took (or proposed to take) appropriate steps to protect themselves or other persons from the danger.
Our dispute with the University over staff safety is as follows:
Cardiff University has failed to give a clear and public commitment not to compel any member of staff or worker to attend face-to-face work on campus while the COVID-19 pandemic continues to pose a significant public health risk.
We want to reiterate that we fully support members who are returning to campus – or wish to return – voluntarily. The dispute is about supporting colleagues who are being forced to return, even when they have underlying conditions that make them particularly vulnerable. If you are in this position, please contact the UCU office (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The next stage of the dispute involves a Joint Negotiating Committee meeting that must involve at least three lay members of the University Council. We expect this to take place in January 2021. We ask members to encourage managers in their Schools to take a position that helps resolve this dispute by not forcing staff onto campus, and to communicate their position to UEB.
Thank you to all the members who told us about their experiences of homeworking risk assessments. Most people who contributed are entirely working from home and most were either not provided with risk assessments at all or were only sent a DSE form. Those who received DSE forms reported the following issues:
- Raising concerns / Flagging issues, including needs for disability adjustments, that were left ignored;
- DSE assessment is not designed for home-working;
- Difficulty collecting items necessary for a safe working environment;
- Lack of appropriate place/space for items necessary for a safe working environment;
- Lack of a dedicated working space at home which implies moving the “workstation” on a regular basis, with the limitations that come from that;
- For those working both at home and in the office, no extra equipment was offered to have a second working station at home.
Some of you have identified good practice in this area. Members in the schools of Healthcare and Modern Languages were able to report that risk assessments for homeworking had been handled well. We will raise this issue with UEB and request that the practices in these Schools are applied throughout the University. If you would like to contribute to this discussion, please feel free to email the office or leave your comments here by the 15th December.
Building risk assessments are still ongoing but the vast majority have been completed and are in the process of being made available on the intranet. We are limited in how far we have been able to engage in individual risk assessments because we do not have UCU representatives in the vast majority of buildings (of which there are around 80, and we have UCU contacts in roughly 30). We would ask UCU members to put their names forward to act as a point of contact in their building if there is no rep, and to look at the risk assessments of those buildings. Please contact our H&S officer Andy Skyrme (email@example.com) if your School does not have an active dep rep and you think you can help with this.
As a result of UCU intervention and following our letter to UEB raising a number of issues related to changes to the expenses claims process, we received this response from management. Management has taken on board some of our points and improved the process as a result. We have some remaining concerns that we will follow up with management. Colin Berry (executive committee member and dep rep for the School of Biosciences) is leading on this. If management had followed good practice and consulted with us from the start, it would have avoided time wasted by both sides and we will urge them again to consult with us whenever changes like these occur.
Trade Unions and political organisations including People’s Assembly and People Before Profit have been organising protests, petitions, workshops and other events across the UK in response to the pandemic. We urge members to support these when possible.
Last Saturday, the Cardiff Trades Council organised a protest outside Cardiff Castle against real term wages cuts in the public sector, which included a speaker from our branch.
People’s Assembly Wales is running a Zero Covid campaign and has organized a petition to the Welsh Government that you can sign here.
With cases in Wales still on the rise and already higher than before the firebreak lockdown, this petition urges the Welsh Government to implement an effective lockdown that includes:
1) Stopping all classroom or F2F teaching in schools and universities during the lockdown;
2) Protection of jobs and incomes (including furlough and support for the self-employed) until there is a downward trend in cases;
3) Demanding funding from Westminster to enable Welsh Government to provide this protection;
4) Using the time gained to build effective Find, Test, Trace, Isolate, Support across the whole of Wales.
The University has the duty to carry out risk assessments for home working to ensure all staff have a safe environment in which to work. If you are carrying out any work from home, please take two minutes to let us know here if you had a risk assessment for home working.
We are aware that some schools are asking staff to complete DSE (Display Screen Equipment) forms and are being asked to sign them even if their working conditions do not meet the standards required. We advise all members not to sign off any forms under these circumstances and to get in touch with us if you have any concerns.
Cardiff UCU negotiators met with management on Wednesday (18th) at a Joint Consultative negotiating Forum (JCNF) that we called specifically to discuss staff being forced to attend work on campus. Management asserted the approach to on-campus working is supportive and collaborative and that they are unaware of staff being forced to return to campus. Cardiff UCU have reported to management that staff have reported being forced to return to campus on several occasions. Management asserted that they would not make a clear and public commitment not to force any member of staff to attend work on campus. Cardiff UCU executive are discussing option for how to proceed, including balloting for industrial action – please let me know what you think about this by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org