LUCU Newsletter – October 2021
In this newsletter, we report on USS, Covid-19 H&S, Anti-Casualisation, and Dynamic Working.
Our Pensions Rep Matthew Inglis has produced an excellent short video that explains the cause of the pension dispute and demonstrates how the 2020 evaluation is flawed. We encourage all members to watch this: you can find it here. Please share the video to help publicise this issue.
We would like to remind members of the EGM on the USS Pension Dispute on October 8, 2021 – 1:00 – 1:50 on Teams. You can join the meeting via link that has been emailed to all members. If you are unable to attend and wish to ask a question about the dispute, please contact UCU@lboro.ac.uk.
Following our last Covid update, some members raised concerns with the branch about the University no longer requiring the use of face masks; academic colleagues were especially concerned about higher risks posed by teaching in spaces where students were not wearing masks. At the Joint Negotiating and Consultative Committee meeting on 15 Sept., LUCU raised the issue with management, and they agreed to take a more robust approach toward encouraging the use of face masks on campus. We appreciate the constructive response to the concerns we raised. In addition, so that colleagues can feel more secure about asking students to wear face masks, the University has provided a slide that can be inserted into lecture materials or used on LEARN to request that students wear face masks in teaching sessions (unless exempt). You can download the slide here.
Ventilation levels have been checked in all areas that have mechanical ventilation and the details of the ventilation rates should be included in the risk assessments which are available for staff to read if they wish (please speak to your School Safety Officer is you are unsure where to find them). CO2 monitors are being used in several locations where there are concerns about ventilation levels (especially those with poor or no mechanical ventilation).
Testing and Covid Cases
All students moving into on-campus accommodation have been required to take a lateral flow test before being permitted to collect their keys. Up to mid-afternoon on 29 September 2021, there had only been four positive results, and, given that approximately 2,000 tests per day are being carried out this is a good sign. Students will continue to be required to undertake at least one lateral flow test per week; external funding for the current testing programme is in place to the end of October, but almost certainly will be extended to the end of the first term at least. Staff are asked to take a lateral flow test at least once a week when they are coming onto campus.
Returning to Campus
With term having started, many staff have been asked to return, at least part time, to working on campus. This may be for a number of different reasons, but unless there is a specific health and safety risk which has not been addressed, in general our contracts oblige us to comply with these requests. LUCU’s position is that the University should follow Indie-Sage advice, which would see those staff who can work from home continue to do so, and those activities (e.g. area and school meetings) that can be done virtually continue to take place on Teams. We will continue to make this case to management. If you have specific concerns (e.g. too many people in an office or teaching space, having to use public transport at peak times to travel to campus, etc.) then please discuss these with your line manager in the first instance. Don’t hesitate to contact the union if you do not feel your concerns are being adequately addressed.
In discussions with management, LUCU has been broadly supportive of the initiative to introduce dynamic working. We welcome the greater flexibility this mode of working offers – especially for colleagues in professional services – and its potential to benefit those who have caring responsibilities or a disability. The opportunity for staff to work ‘dynamically’ is at the discretion of line managers, and LUCU is keen to ensure that the policy is applied fairly across job families, schools, and units across campus. If you experience any problems in relation to Dynamic Working, please contact your area Rep or the committee at UCU@lboro.ac.uk so that we can bring them to the attention of HR. If your request to work ‘dynamically’ is refused and you feel that you have been treated unfairly, you may also contact our Casework Coordinator Andrew Dix for individual support: A.Dix@lboro.ac.uk
The Casualisation Task and Finish Group, established following industrial action in 2018/19, has concluded its first phase. This has resulted in a Charter of Principles that the University has committed to in respect of casual employment, which is to be reviewed annually by management and campus unions. While we do not think this will eradicate the problems that casualisation causes, we hope that it will:
1) Improve pay and conditions for hourly paid workers in the immediate term;
2) Enable staff on open-ended contracts to make the case for more secure forms of employment when new staff are required;
3) Provide a platform for further organisation and negotiation.
The Charter of Principles can be read in full here. We’ll soon be publishing guidance for casual workers who feel these principles are not being honoured, and for staff on open-ended contracts who wish to support casualised colleagues. UCU has also recently produced some excellent materials for casual and open-ended staff: you can find them here. In the meantime, if you have any concerns, queries or suggestions, please contact David Bell on firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are concerned that your employment at Loughborough is not in keeping with the spirit of the principles, please copy in your Department Rep, if possible (see here for a list of Reps).