There has, inevitably, been much discussion about what a return to work might look like. Some of our members have never been away of course, providing essential services (payroll, security, student support, equipment maintenance and delivery etc.), while many of us have been trying to carry on from home, dealing with multiple problems.
As it stands, heads of schools and departments have been looking at what “essential” activities they think need to take place on site, and these are mainly concerned with continued maintenance (which has often been happening anyway) and completion of research projects (staff and students) before the funding bodies complain that progress has been slow, or research students fall behind.
There’s a knock-on effect here, in that some technicians, particularly in STEM subjects, may be required to come back on site and as soon as some people start to be working on campus then there’s more pressure on the infrastructure – caretaking, cleaning etc. as buildings are opened.
For any plan, cleaning is crucial. It is also necessary to put in place measures that keep us all apart from each other so that human contact is minimised. There are also questions about air circulation and how to manage the number of people in a building at any one time, given that the more people you have, the more there’s potentially a problem.
UNISON has been clear that at least in the immediate future, which probably means throughout June and perhaps further depending on the national situation, only essential work that needs to be on site should take place, and that only members of staff willing and able to work in this way should be asked to do so.
We’re not demanding that nobody works on site (which would be a nonsense as far as Payroll, caretakers and security staff are concerned), but we are saying that people should not be on site if that can be avoided and the University has an obligation to put measures in place that keep us all safe whilst we’re working, either at home or on the premises.
UNISON nationally have produced a guide to working safely, which is more general, but worth reading. You can access it here: Guide to Safe Working
In the meantime, we have been and will continue to meet with University representatives to discuss all aspects this, both in the short term and with respect to the longer term plan of what happens in September.