January 2021 lockdown – here we go again

I’m sure many members will have heard Monday night’s announcement thinking this should have been done at least a day earlier and also, here we go again. In many respects, we’re back to where we were in late March, but with the added experience of nine months of lockdown and semi-lockdown, arguments over face-coverings, ventilation, essential activities etc.

The government guidance suggests that universities should deliver remote teaching, but teach on-site healthcare, teacher training and social work, and continue any activities that contribute to the fight against Covid research-wise. This does not mean though that these activities have to take place on site and we should be limiting the number of people on site by only delivering face to face teaching where it’s absolutely essential i.e. an essential practical session in an essential subject where the session can’t be delayed.

This UNISON branch will be demanding the following of UEB:

  • Only essential teaching takes place on site, and if so, it should only be because it’s on the list of “essential” and necessary to be delivered face-to-face, with all students having been fully tested. (Research is not essential unless it’s directly related to combatting Covid.)
  • All people working on site are doing so on a voluntary basis and have absolutely no underlying health conditions.
  • All people working at home with childcare responsibilities are offered appropriate paid leave to recognise that childcare is a full-time job.
  • All risk assessments are revised and nothing should happen until they are updated and signed off.
  • All appropriate furloughed staff should be paid at 100% of wages.

There are suggestions that the “buildings are all open”. If they are, they should only be if they are required for essential activity, which rather suggests that most shouldn’t be!

We’ll be taking up much of this at our meeting with UEB tomorrow morning, but please remember that if you’re not happy about why you need to be working on-site then you should discuss all the issues with your manager (bearing in mind the new strain of Covid is potentially more dangerous) and ask to talk to occupational health and see the new risk assessment, before working on site.

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