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
I want to thank everyone for their union work during this incredibly challenging year. It seems like much longer ago than February and March that we were on strike defending our pensions, pay and equality and against casualisation and excessive workloads. Of course these issues have not gone away, and have instead been intensified by the pandemic and international financial crisis. Nevertheless, I believe we’re in a stronger position to defend ourselves because our action earlier this year, which showed that attacks would be resisted.
I am proud that we have managed to maintain core features of democracy within our branch, despite the restrictions and thank everyone who has been able to engage in our General Meetings which have determined the branch’s positions this year. It is a result of these, as well as our branch survey results and feedback from branch Health & Safety and Department Representatives, that we have pushed University management to ensure staff are not compelled to attend face-to-face work on campus while the COVID-19 pandemic continues to pose a significant public health risk. While some members may feel safe to engage in face-to-face work on campus, we are committed to the position that no member of staff should be forced back to work on campus. Given University management’s refusal to give a clear and public commitment on this and our subsequent initiation of the disputes resolution procedure, we will begin a consultative ballot on this issue in the New Year.
We will join an increasing number of other UCU branches entering dispute over related issues. We must be united to defend our jobs, pay and our working conditions, as well as the education sector. We should not be forced to pay the price of the pandemic – or let management use this as an excuse to push through negative changes. Our position this year to not accept the proposed justifications for staffing cuts has been vindicated and shows the importance of combative trade unions.
I know that this year has been very challenging for many of us, whether working from home or on campus. I hope there is a chance for rest and recuperation during the University closure period and that we can come back refreshed and determined in the New Year.
Cardiff branch President
Christmas (or the feast of Nativity) is a Christian holyday honouring the birth of Jesus. It has evolved into a worldwide religious and secular celebration, incorporating many pre-Christian and pagan traditions (namely the winter solstice festivals) and is marked by billions of people across the globe. Christmas is observed primarily on the 25th December and it’s associated with renewal, hope, family, giving, peace and love.
We wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a restful break!
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.
If you have not already completed the request for evidence that we sent on Monday, please could you do it now. The purpose of this survey – which should take less than 10 minutes to complete – is to inform the upcoming meeting between the three unions and the university’s senior managers in January 2021 to discuss workload.
Your contribution to the survey is entirely anonymous (we ask you some questions about work context at the end) as we will not record any personal information and only aggregated results will be communicated to senior management. To contribute, simply click here.
Please feel free to pass this link on to non-unionised colleagues within the university as we would like to collect as many responses as possible. The survey is open until 18 December 2020.
All members are invited to join a webinar to launch Wales TUC’s mental health workplace toolkit on Tuesday 15th December from 12.30 to 1.30pm.
UCU will be joining Eluned Morgan, Welsh Government Minister for Mental Health, Wellbeing and the Welsh Language in a panel session about mental health and the workplace.
You can register for the event here.
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.