LUCU Newsletter – October 2021

LUCU Newsletter – October 2021

In this newsletter, we report on USS, Covid-19 H&S, Anti-Casualisation, and Dynamic Working. 

USS

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.

Covid Update

Face Masks

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

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.

Dynamic Working

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

Anti-Casualisation Campaign

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 anticaslboro@gmail.com. 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).

LUCU Committee

Joint campus trade unions online meeting

Joint campus trade unions online meeting scheduled for Tuesday September 14th from 1- 2pm on MS Teams.
 
Loughborough University branches of UCU – University and College Union, Unite the union & Unison – Loughborough University are meeting together. Members please check your email for the link to the meeting. Join us to air your opinions, and hear those of your colleagues, on the planned health & safety measures for start of term at Loughborough University.
 
#LboroFamily

LUCU News September 2021

LUCU News September 2021

As we start a new academic year, LUCU is responding to the ongoing difficulties associated with the Covid pandemic and new threats to our pensions following UUK’s latest actions.

Covid Update

Representatives from LUCU continue to meet with the other campus unions and representatives from HR and University Health and Safety on a weekly basis.  Plans remain fluid as we continue to monitor case rates locally, nationally, and internationally, though a general plan for the beginning of the semester has been put together.

Teaching Delivery

For large lectures, teaching will initially be blended, with half of a class attending in person and half attending via MS Teams, with the halves switching on a weekly basis.  This policy will be reviewed on a two-weekly basis. Seminars are expected to be 100% in-person using rooms that have a normal (i.e. pre-Covid) capacity of approximately twice that of the class size. In some instances, this may not be possible to accommodate, and in those cases the seminar will either take place completely online, or in a room of as great a capacity as possible which also has additional ventilation.  Social distancing will remain at 2m for staff/student interactions, but it will almost certainly be completely relaxed for students themselves (except in labs which will remain at 1m+ because it has received positive feedback).

Testing

The University is strongly encouraging students to test before they travel. However, all students staying in on-campus accommodation will be required to have a Lateral Flow Test upon arrival. Anyone with a positive result will be denied access to their accommodation and asked to return home; it is accepted that this will not be possible in all cases so alternative plans are being drawn up to house students in this situation.  It is the intention that a similar test-to-access scheme will be in place for students who are resident in the town centre and third-party halls of residence, but these plans are not fully formed yet.  Our on-campus test facilities are currently guaranteed to be in place until the end of September, and the University is pushing DfE and PHE to extend this to at least the end of October. 

The University is conducting wastewater monitoring in all but two halls of residence on campus (the two which aren’t subject to testing are because of issues about the locations of sampling points). This has already detected a positive case where an individual was self-isolating due to a positive result, so it demonstrates that even with small case numbers it can prove useful.  A vaccination hub will be created on campus that will operate for five days from late September into early October to encourage and help students to get vaccinated. International students will also be able to get vaccinated on campus.

Face Coverings

Staff and students will be expected to wear face coverings when moving around indoor spaces. Students won’t be expected to wear face coverings when sitting in lectures or study spaces. The University position is that face coverings are not needed where there is social distancing of 2m between staff and students as well as additional ventilation. Notwithstanding, staff should still feel empowered to politely request the use of face coverings (unless someone is exempt), but you should be aware that individuals have the right to refuse the request.  LUCU and the other campus trade unions have argued that management should robustly enforce the use of face coverings on campus indoors, as they have the right to do.

Office spaces will remain at reduced occupancy levels, although where there is a need for increased staffing local mitigations (such as carefully placed perspex screens) will be used where appropriate and subject to suitable risk assessments and monitoring.  The University is also increasing the use of CO2 monitors to check ventilation levels in areas of concern.

If you have any concerns about the safety of your workplace relevant to Covid (or any other H&S issue), please contact your UCU Rep, or committee at UCU@lboro.ac.uk.

USS Pensions – Update

You will have received an important email from Jo Grady, UCU’s General Secretary, with the subject line ‘Important Update on Today’s USS Negotiations.’

Unfortunately, UUK has pushed through their proposal to significantly cut our benefits, even though they consider the 2020 valuation unjustified: they propose to reduce the salary cap for defined benefits from £60,000 to £40,000 per annum, cap indexation at 2.5 per cent per annum, and reduce the accrual rate from 1/75th of salary to 1/85th of salary.

At the Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC), UCU put forward a compromise position, which would have involved sharing the cost of the unreasonable USS valuation between employers and employees. Unfortunately, UUK effectively blocked this proposal from being considered by refusing to provide any ‘covenant support’ (the commitment that employers make to pension schemes) if the UCU proposals were implemented. The net result is that UUK want employees to bear the full cost of USS’s flawed valuation.

On September 3, UCU held a members’ briefing that addressed USS, as well as Covid and the Four Fights campaign.  If you like more detail about pensions negotiations and how UCU proposes to respond to the JNC decision, you can watch the recording here: UCU higher education briefing, 03 September 2021 – YouTube

How much will this cost you?

You can see how much pension you will lose if the UUK proposals come into force by using the First Actuarial modeller at: http://ucu.org.uk/ussmodeller.

Please Check Your Details

Assuming the JNC’s recommendation is approved by the USS trustees, a 60-day consultation will follow with scheme members. This means that industrial action will likely be needed if UUK are to revisit their position. Because the law requires that industrial action ballots are conducted by post, it is extremely important that UCU has an up-to-date postal address for you that you check regularly (i.e. if you are mostly working from home at the moment, it would be better to receive your ballot paper at home).

You can check/amend your UCU account details here: UCU – Support Home Page.  If you prefer, you can update your mailing address by emailing our branch administrator Callum Salfield.

The Oxbridge Joint Statement

Recently, Cambridge UCU and Oxford UCU branches published a joint statement with their universities calling for reform of the USS scheme. The proposed new design would involve conditional indexation – a form of member risk-and-reward-sharing.  This would not solve the problem of the 2020 valuation, but it could offer a long-term solution to funding USS that would ensure members receive a good pension. LUCU and Lboro management share the belief that conditional indexation is a viable option for pension scheme redesign, and we will be joining several other institutions in issuing a joint statement to this effect.  Although the USS pension dispute cannot be resolved at a local level, LUCU committee will work with Lboro management to protect pension benefits wherever possible.

Joint Union Activity

Over the past year LUCU has worked closely with the other campus trade unions to increase our leverage in negotiations, and we will continue to collaborate with Unite and UNISON where this enables us to best serve members’ interests.  Currently, we are working together on issues of pay, restructures, the reform of grievance procedures and disciplinary procedures, as well as workplace health and safety. 

A combined trades union meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, September 14, 2021, from 1:00 – 2:00 pm on Teams. You can join the meeting via this link: Click here to join the meeting

The purpose of this EGM is two-fold:

1) to canvass members’ opinions on the health and safety measures that the University has planned for the start of term in October;

2) to update members on decisions reached at the UCU Special HE Sector Conference (September 9th) where USS will be a key agenda item.

LUCU Committee

LUCU News: August 2021

LUCU News: August 2021

Covid Update

LUCU Health and Safety officers continue to meet weekly with management to inform and monitor how the University is responding to the pandemic. We are pleased that the University is planning to retain the use of masks, social distancing, and increased ventilation, as well as the testing, track and trace regime.

While returning to work on campus is currently permitted, it is not mandatory at present: decisions about returning to campus working are devolved to individual schools and services to manage on a justifiable as-required basis.  If you have a significant concern about being required to come back to campus that you feel is not being handled appropriately by your line management, contact your LUCU area Rep or committee at UCU@lboro.ac.uk.  

The University has produced an updated set of Q&As for staff, which may be found here: https://www.lboro.ac.uk/internal/studying-working-living/staff/faqs/

USS Update

The fall-out from the flawed March 2020 valuation of the USS pension scheme continues. Following a consultation with employers, including Loughborough, we now know that Universities UK (UUK) intends to propose ~25% cuts to the value of your pension. LUCU strongly encourages you to use the UCU modeller to calculate how much annual income in retirement you personally stand to lose if UUK is able to force through these cuts. The modeller has been produced by First Actuarial (a professional firm of actuaries), is easy to use, and is available here: https://www.ucu.org.uk/ussmodeller.

The next important stage in the process is the August meeting of the Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC), when it is expected that UUK plans to formally propose these cuts to your pension. The JNC is made up of equal numbers of representatives from UUK and UCU, plus an independent chair. If the independent chair decides to vote with the UUK representatives then, unfortunately, it is likely that industrial action will be required to protect our pensions. 

For background on the dispute, and details of why UUK’s proposed cuts are unjustified, two helpful

sources are:

– Woon Wong’s article in the Newsletter of the Royal Economic Society, entitled “Universities’ superannuation fund is accumulating surplus assets!”: https://www.res.org.uk/resources-page/universities-superannuation-fund-is-accumulating-surplus-assets.html.

– Sam Marsh’s article in USSBriefs entitled “How extreme prudence and misguided risk-management sent the USS into crisis”: https://medium.com/ussbriefs/how-extreme-prudence-and-misguided-risk-management-sent-the-uss-into-crisis-baf78c35d9e1.

Casework Update

We have reported before in the newsletter on the personal casework undertaken by members of the Branch. At this point in the academic cycle, with the year heading to a close, it might be helpful to provide an update on our recent casework activity. Since October 2020, we have supported 24 members who approached us seeking advice and representation. These cases have ranged from grievances to disciplinary hearings, and from workload issues to restructures and redundancies. The number also includes several colleagues whom we have assisted in securing exemption from in-person teaching at the height of the pandemic. 

Many of these cases are complex, involving caseworkers in significant preparation and multiple meetings. Some of them are ongoing and not to be resolved until the next academic year (by which time other members seeking our support will doubtless have come forward). In each instance, however, we hope that we have been able to offer colleagues facing difficult circumstances both practical guidance and emotional support.

We should say a word about the place of casework in the Branch’s activity at large. Although each case is inevitably individual in its focus, supporting a particular colleague, it is far from true that casework is cut off from our broader campaigning. Regular meetings of the casework team identify patterns and tendencies – how the University is managing restructures, for example – and this then informs our negotiations with the institution. What seems to be a narrowly personal activity is thus always collective in its implications.

As members know, our caseworkers are all volunteers, taking on this task in addition to their day jobs in the institution. Currently we have an excellent team of dedicated people – but more caseworkers are always very welcome. A short training session, delivered either on campus or online by the Union’s regional office, will be arranged for the early autumn – so, if you think you might be interested in becoming a caseworker, do look out for details in due course. In the meantime, if anyone would like to talk about what the role entails, or would like casework support, please contact our Personal Casework Co-ordinator Andrew Dix (A.Dix@lboro.ac.uk).

UCU National Campaign: Building Power in the Workplace

We would like to call attention to this guide that UCU has produced for members, which outlines how to bring about deeper levels of organising to produce the power necessary to win significant victories on the four fights: Pensions, Pay, Casualisation and Workload. https://www.ucu.org.uk/media/11564/Building-power-in-workplace-an-introduction/pdf/Building_power_in_workplace_June21.pdf

LUCU Newsletter

Committee has been discussing how best to use the newsletter to communicate with members. We are moving away from lengthy newsletters issued every two months in favour of a shorter newsletter that we will send out during the first week of each month. We will continue to send email briefings about urgent matters as they occur.

LUCU Committee – 02/08/2021

LUCU News: June 2021

LUCU News: June 2021

AGM Report

Matters of interest going forward that were reported on/discussed are as follows: ongoing negotiations with management have resulted in a formal review of the PDR process, promotions process, and Grievance process being initiated this year – these reviews will conclude at different points through 2021-22. A Charter to improve and protect the working terms and conditions of Casual Staff is in the final stages of negotiation following the work of the Anti-Casualisation Task and Finish Group, and we will report back when this has been adopted. 

Three motions were debated: 1) Rule Change Motion (Annual General Meeting) – passed; 2) Rule Change Motion (Rules for Local Motions) – withdrawn; 3) Local Subs Motion 2021 – passed. 

Local Subs Motion 2021

The majority of our local branch income pays for our excellent administrative support, without which the branch would not be able to achieve all it does.  Branch officers would spend much more time doing administrative tasks and would have far less time to spend negotiating with the University and supporting members through casework.  UCU staff are members of the USS pension scheme alongside us.

This motion had two aims:

  1. We needed to stem a current deficit in the branch finances and allow for expected staffing cost increases, especially due to USS;
  2. We hoped to move from a regressive flat-fee structure to a progressive tiered structure.

As a result of this motion passing, local subscription rates will move from a flat fee paid by all members (whose earnings vary enormously) to a tiered structure based on the pay bands used for your national UCU subscriptions.  This does mean a small increase for our highest earners but allows for a decrease for those earning less.  Our very lowest earners (under £5,000 per year), typically employed part time and often on precarious contracts, will no longer pay local subscriptions.  Previously they paid over three times more for their local subscription than their national subscription.

The changes are as follows:

TierNationalNew LocalCurrent totalNew totalChange
£60,000 & above (F0)£27.11£6.87£30.61£33.98+£3.37
£40,000 – £59,999 (F1)£23.94£4.58£27.44£28.52+£1.08
£30,000 – £39,999 (F2)£21.06£3.44£24.56£24.50-£0.06
£22,000 – £29,999 (F3)£17.96£2.52£21.46£20.48-£0.98
£15,000 – £21,999 (F4)£10.71£1.72£14.21£12.43-£1.78
£5,000 – £14,999 (F5)£4.67£0.57£8.17£5.24-£2.93
Below £5,000 (F6)£0.99£0.00£4.49£0.99-£3.50
Changes to contributions rates

77 of our lowest paid, often most precariously employed, members have their subscriptions reduced
84 pay roughly the same
319 pay just over £1 more
66 highest paid members pay £3.37 more – to use a now somewhat hackneyed phrase, “the price of a coffee”.

I’m grateful to all of the members who voted in favour of the progressive option which makes our subscription model much fairer.

David Wilson, Branch Treasurer

The composition of the LUCU Committee for 2021-22 was announced:

Chair – Mary Brewer

Negotiating Secretary – Marc Gibson

Casework Coordinator – Andrew Dix

Health and Safety Officer – Alec Edworthy

Equalities Officer – Sue Hignett

Pensions Rep – Matthew Inglis

Treasurer – David Wilson

Membership Secretary – Marie Hanlon

Ordinary member – Joanna Boehnert

EGM on Workload – Report

Our most recent EGM addressed how workload for next year is being managed across departments/schools.

There was some good news from members in SDCA, where SMT is taking a more progressive approach to workload, which involves open discussions at school meetings where staff (and our LUCU Reps) can raise the question of tariffs, un-costed work, EDI, and other issues of concern.  This effort at genuine consultation, transparency, and inclusion is welcome!  We are also pleased to report that the Dean of Loughborough London responded immediately and positively to working with us on workload and EDI related issues as part of the planning for next year’s workload. 

While these are hopeful developments, members in other schools reported limited or no consultation on workload, tariff reductions to make staff appear to be working within the 1598 agreed workload, tariffs that bear scant relation to the time needed for tasks, stress from overwork, a lack of transparency/fairness relevant to workload, and uncertainty regarding the appropriate consideration of EDI and workload. LUCU will be running a workload campaign in 2021-22, with the aim addressing the problems with workload that have been highlighted by members.

In response to issues raised by the Workload Task and Finish group (which is ongoing),  the Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor is preparing a paper on the new workload model that will be presented at the next ARSNC, and we will report back to members about this in due course.  

If you would like a copy of the minutes from the AGM and/or EGM, please write to UCU@lboro.ac.uk.

Covid Update

LUCU continue to work closely alongside the other campus unions, HR, and Health and Safety to monitor the situation surrounding Covid-19.

Loughborough still has the highest student testing compliance rates in HE, and it is because of this that cases remain very low.  We have seen a slight increase in cases recently, reflecting the national situation, but with the prompt action from Connect and Protect the numbers are being kept low and full contact tracing is taking place (no links between the cases have been identified suggesting that they are community acquired rather than University related).  With the likelihood of further relaxation of the restrictions, we’re anticipating campus getting busier and more people returning to the office.  As and when this happens, we will work to ensure that our members’ working environments are managed safely and appropriately.

LUCU would like to remind our members that we must not get complacent – social distancing, face coverings (except where exempt), regular hand washing and plenty of ventilation are still essential.  If you feel comfortable, please do politely challenge others where you see these rules not being observed, or, if you prefer, please alert the relevant Health and Safety contact in your area so that they may ensure compliance with Covid safety rules. And please continue to let us know of any concerns you may have about health and safety in your area of work.

Alec Edworthy, Branch Health and Safety Officer

USS Pensions

We would like to remind members to use the UCU modeller that has been developed, which will show how your pension will be affected if the changes to USS advocated by UUK become a reality: UCU – UUK pension proposal modeller.

The modeller may be used by non-members as well, so please share widely with colleagues.

LUCU Committee

Survey Results: ‘Covid and In-Person Teaching’

Survey Results: ‘Covid and In-Person Teaching’

We are writing to report on the results of LUCU’s most recent survey on ‘Covid and In-Person Teaching’.  The survey was completed by hundreds of members and achieved a significant response rate as a proportion of the branch membership. This is the highest response we have had to a survey! – and represents an excellent increase in responses compared to our October survey. Thanks to everyone who responded, as your feedback will be used to inform our stance on this issue. LUCU would also like to thank those members who gave so generously of their time and expertise to help us frame the survey and to interpret its results. 

The survey was a listening exercise for the committee. Our aim was to test whether the view of the membership had changed since October and to gauge the current temperature of the membership concerning action that would be needed to push management into adopting the Online-Only position for the rest of this academic year.

Overall, the survey indicates broad support for LUCU to continue working with management to ensure a balanced approach where staff have the ability to request an opt-out of in-person teaching, in line with the outcome agreed through our local dispute process, and a preference for what some members termed ‘constructive’ solutions – that is, reserving ballots or threats of action only when other methods fail to achieve a satisfactory solution for the branch.  

To remind members, management has agreed the following with LUCU:

Staff may request home working even if they are not clinically vulnerable, and without necessarily involving input from Occupational Health, if they are concerned about undertaking their duties in-person. Although the survey focused on in-person teaching, this agreement covers all staff.  Requests are considered at school/unit level by the line manager or their nominee. 

If members would like the advice of a LUCU caseworker before submitting a request or during discussions with a manager, please contact our Casework Coordinator, Andrew Dix – a.dix@lboro.ac.uk.

Thus far, requests have been treated sympathetically, and the agreement is enabling members to work from home or have their in-person hours reduced to a number with which they are comfortable. LUCU is monitoring the process through regular updates from Reps, and regular contact with Deans and HR as required.

Members: please find a fuller report on the survey attached to your email.   

LUCU Committee

LUCU Covid Bulletin 3 – March 2020

LUCU Covid Bulletin 3 – March 2020

Our survey on Covid and in-person contact closes tomorrow – March 5, 2021. If you have not yet completed the survey, which takes c. 3 minutes, we urge you to do so to help the committee better understand your views on Covid related issues at this time. 

Campus Re-opening

There will be a partial re-opening of campus on Monday, March 8, 2021 for students who are registered on courses that require access to specialist facilities to complete practical elements of their programmes. See here for a complete lists of courses: Microsoft Word – practical-degree-programes-march2021.docx (lboro.ac.uk). In addition, undergraduate finalists who require access to specialist facilities for project / dissertation work can continue their on-campus activity as per the email to students dated 28th January.

Teaching programmes that are not listed on the above linked document will remain online until after Easter, pending review during April and further government guidance.

For your information, the most recent Government advice, based on SAGE guidance, that informs how the University is managing the staggered return of students may be found here: Higher education: operational guidance – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk). Members may also be interested to read Indie Sage Guidance: Independent SAGE Statement on Universities and Colleges Winter-Spring 2021 in the Context of SARS-CoV-2 and the | Independent SAGE.

Covid H&S Update

Since the start of the pandemic, LUCU and the other campus trades unions have been closely involved in monitoring how the University is responding to Covid risks on campus through representation on the University Health and Safety committee. In addition, we have held weekly meetings with Neil Budworth, Director of Health, Safety and Wellbeing, and Anne Lamb, Deputy Director of Human Resources and Organisational Development, in cooperation with Unison and Unite, where we have been able to assess in greater detail the implementation and enforcement of Covid-secure measures. 

In response to Covid variants that are more highly transmissible, we can report to members that all risk assessments for rooms that will be in use from March 8, 2021 have been reviewed and updated where needed, and risk assessments for all remaining teaching/shared office spaces that may come into use after Easter are also under review. 

Thus far, the following changes have been made in response to the threat of Covid variants.

  1. Student and Staff Testing: Students are required to undertake a rapid Covid test at least once every seven days in order to be allowed to use campus-based facilities (e.g. Library, PC labs, study spaces).  Students who do not take a minimum of one test every seven days will be denied access to facilities until they comply with the testing.  The aim is for students to undertake two tests each week (3-4 days apart), but rather than implementing this from the start, the University is building up compliance with at least one test per week. 

Staff are required to take a weekly rapid Covid test if they are working on the campus for any length of time.  The only exceptions to these requirements are for anyone who has had a positive Covid test in the last 90 days, or who is otherwise medically exempt.  Staff based on the Loughborough campus can book a rapid test via the website (https://www.lboro.ac.uk/internal/studying-working-living/testing/), while for staff based at the London campus, testing is available on Mondays and Wednesdays between 10am and 2pm at the 4th floor test centre and booking is not required in London. 

LUCU broadly support the requirement for staff working on campus to undertake regular rapid Covid tests and would encourage all members to engage with the policy where they can.  If you have any concerns about the testing, please speak to your line manager in the first instance, or you can contact LUCU at ucu@lboro.ac.uk.

  1. Ventilation: The ventilation in all teaching spaces on campus has been reviewed to ensure that it is compliant with the latest guidance regarding the more highly transmissible variants. Lectern notes and Risk Assessments have been updated to reflect this.
  1. Leaving spaces empty for longer between sessions: In order to reduce the risk posed by viral load build up in teaching spaces, extra gaps are being left between sessions to ensure the rooms are well ventilated between classes.  The requirement for this varies between locations and is factored into the timetabling of the rooms.
  1. Social distancing: As with the autumn term, staff should be able to maintain a 2m distance between themselves and students in teaching spaces.  Floor markings have been placed in teaching spaces denoting the safe areas for staff to maintain this spacing.  Students will be spaced at 2m where feasible.  Where 2m distancing between students would severely impact the capacity of a room, the University is mandating 1m+ spacing, where students may be seated within 2m of one another but other protections (such as differing orientations and mandatory face coverings) reduce the risks). 

The seats in teaching spaces that are suitable for students to occupy are clearly denoted with stickers.  In laboratories, workshops and practical spaces, where 2m floor spacings for staff may not be possible, higher grade PPE (e.g. additional respiratory protection) will be provided.

  1. Enforcement: Covid ambassadors will be in place to ensure compliance with social distancing and other safety measures.

If you become aware of a situation where health and safety guidelines are not being followed, contact your line manager and school health and safety officer in the first instance. Please also let the union know.

LUCU Dispute Update

Early in the pandemic UCU called for all non-essential teaching to move online, and LUCU requested management to adopt the UCU position.

Management refused on the basis that 1) they were providing a workplace where Covid risks were minimized as much as possible, and therefore, requesting in-person contact was not unreasonable; 2) it was necessary to deliver some in-person teaching for the benefit of students’ educational needs and mental wellbeing, as per LSU’s position; and 3) minimizing financial losses during the pandemic was essential to protect jobs.

LUCU has paid careful attention to what members have been telling us via their union Reps, email communications, surveys, and AGMs/EGMs.  We learned that the membership holds a wide range of views relative to the UCU position, ranging from support for moving all teaching online to support for the system of blended learning that management put in place.  The majority of members took the position that LUCU should work toward ensuring that the campus was made as safe as possible, avoid action that would impact on university finances to the extent that management may move toward further cutbacks, and consider the learning experience and wellbeing of students as well as staff when negotiating with management. 

Feedback from members also demonstrated a concern that some staff might be pressured into working on campus even if they felt extremely anxious about doing so.  Clinically vulnerable staff are not expected to work on campus, and those staff (mainly in professional services) who are able to perform their roles remotely are also working from home. 

Consequently, in November 2020, LUCU declared a formal dispute in line with our Partnership Agreement: our aim was to find a compromise that would allow members who did not feel comfortable about undertaking in-person teaching, or other campus duties involving in-person contact, to work from home. We argued that anxiety about in-person contact should not be pathologized during a pandemic, and management had a duty of care to respond to reports of high levels of anxiety with reasonable adjustments.  Management accepted this argument.

We requested that management adopt an opt-in policy for campus working, but this was refused on the basis that an opt-in policy could result in students having an uneven experience across disciplines in terms of in-person hours.  Consequently, further negotiations to resolve the dispute resulted in a working agreement whereby staff members may request home working or reduced in-person hours even if they are not clinically vulnerable, and without necessarily involving input from Occupational Health (although in some cases a referral to OH may be in a member’s interest).

Requests are considered on a case-by-case basis at school level by the relevant line manager or a member of staff designated by the line manager (e.g. Head of Subject, Operations Manager).  Thus far, most requests to work remotely have been treated sympathetically, with members either having their in-person hours reduced or being allowed to work from home. 

Anyone who is not satisfied with the response they receive to their request for remote working may contact LUCU, and we will assign them a caseworker.  Where a caseworker has become involved, we have enjoyed a good rate of success in negotiating a satisfactory outcome for members, and we have a small handful of cases that are ongoing.

We are continuing to monitor how well this approach is working through communication with school and unit LUCU Reps, as well as ongoing meetings with Deans/HR. Currently, we are aware of two subject areas where remote working is negatively impacting other colleagues in terms of the number of in-person hours they are being asked to deliver, and we have secured management agreement to work with LUCU on an action plan to resolve the problem in these areas. 

If you are considering making a request for remote working and have questions/would like further guidance before doing so, please contact us: UCU@lboro.ac.uk

On behalf of LUCU Committee

Working Safely During the Pandemic

Working Safely During the Pandemic

Following on from Wednesday’s EGM on Covid and Health & Safety, our branch is inviting Expressions Of Interest from our membership in undertaking this course: Working Safely During the Pandemic: a webinar focussing on key topics around working safely this year. The course is 90 minutes long (date and time TBC).

The course will be for LUCU members only, but it will be run by National UCU.

If you take part, the expected learning outcomes are:

  • Understand why it’s important to unapologetically look after your health and wellbeing at this time;
  • Identify some of the challenges you face in working safely, whether from home, back in the workplace or a blend of the two;
  • Be clear about what support you can expect from your employer;
  • Identify support available from UCU.

Please click here to send an expression of interest.

LUCU Committee

Vaccination of Clinically Extremely Vulnerable

Vaccination of Clinically Extremely Vulnerable

We have just been sent the below information from Rob Johnstone on behalf of the TUC Midlands, which may be useful info for Clinically Extremely Vulnerable members.

Anyone who is Clinically Extremely Vulnerable can book their Covid vaccine appointments at the below link. It does not require a letter, they just need their NHS number (it appears at the top of their shielding letter from the DHSC).

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-vaccination/book-coronavirus-vaccination/

LUCU Covid Bulletin: 25th January

LUCU Covid Bulletin: 25th January

In light of the more transmissible variants of Covid-19 (including B117 plus at the time of writing, others) and the upsurge in infections, UCU advised branches to consult with employers on revised workplace risk assessments and control measures and to confirm implementation of recommended safety measures for any workers undertaking onsite or in-person work.  The information below is intended to illustrate for members what UCU has called for and how Loughborough University is responding. 

While the university relies on government guidance in determining what measures to put into place, other sources of information also inform decision making. We have provided links to information that has informed our discussions with management on Covid-secure measures, and in the interest of transparency and clarity, we are providing links to relevant documents. Not all materials are available online. If you would like to read any of the documentation cited here, please contact the branch and we will provide a copy.

Given how quickly the Covid landscape can change, committee members are continuing to meet regularly with senior management to review and monitor health and safety measures related to Covid. We will regularly update members as and when UCU health and safety guidance changes and/or the lockdown period ends. We would like to thank Neil Budworth (Director of Health Safety and Wellbeing) and Anne Lamb (Deputy Director of Human Resources and Organisational Development) for the generous amount of time they spend with the campus unions discussing health and safety and providing responses to our written requests for information.

If members have further queries, please don’t hesitate to ask. If you are currently working on campus and feel that sufficient health and safety measures are not in place or see evidence of poor compliance, please alert your line manager/local health and safety officer, and let us know.  Remember that you have the right to work in a safe environment: if you feel that there is a serious and imminent danger which you cannot avert yourself, and that you have brought to the attention of your line manager and/or local health and safety officer, then under the Employment Act 1996 section 44, you have the right to remove yourself from that situation until that danger is resolved. While staff can remove themselves from immediate danger, this is not an action that should be taken in isolation. Please continue to report any deviation from safety protocols as soon as you become aware of them.

The address for committee correspondence is: UCU@lboro.ac.uk

What UCU asks for…

What Loughborough University is doing…

Reduce the number of people required on site to the lowest level possible so that only essential and unavoidable work activities take place during lockdown.

Only essential and unavoidable work activities are currently taking place.

Reduce the number and duration of in person interactions to the lowest level possible.

Number and duration of in person interactions have been brought to the lowest level possible (currently this affects mainly grounds crew, security personnel, etc.).

Reduce the number of people permitted in a space at any one time to the lowest level possible.

The number of people permitted in one space is being kept to the lowest level possible (e.g. by staggering clocking in).

Set a safety threshold for ventilation of 12-17 litres per second per person for typical offices and educational settings. SAGE suggests employers adopt a precautionary approach. 

The university has/will take a precautionary approach by increasing ventilation rates to reflect the increased risk of transmissibility of the new variants) of COVID-19, as recommended the HSE, DfE and CIBSE (professional engineering association authority for ventilation).

 

Ensure a minimum of 2m social distancing as standard.

 

Measures are in place so that staff should be able to maintain a 2m distance in working environments. The guidance that Loughborough has been given directly by HSE and PHE is that they are not planning to change the guidance and that the main thing (as emphasised by the SAGE report) is compliance with the precautions in place.

Ensure all essential workers undertaking in-person work have the highest possible level of respiratory protection. This should be FFP3 face masks (providing 99% particle filtration) where available and with priority for workers who could have interactions that fall below 2 metres social distancing and FFP2 face masks as a minimum standard for all (providing 94% particle filtration). 

*Please see below for further details.

Where colleagues have to work within 2 metres of others, FFP2/3 masks will be recommended, and face fit testing provided.  These masks are not suitable for in person work where individuals do not come within 2m of others as they require careful fitting to the face and make breathing harder (due to the resistance from the filtration).  There is also a national/international supply shortage of these masks; hence, the university is reserving them for the circumstances where the protection is needed.

 

Ensure any use of face coverings in the workplace meets the WHO standard of three protective layers (Type IIR surgical masks). 

The university recommends the use of multi-layer coverings.  When campus re-opens, LUCU will continue to advocate for the most appropriate level of PPE to minimise risks for staff and students.

Ensure effective cleaning and hygiene measures are in place.

 

In light of the new Covid variant, all health and safety risk assessments are being reviewed, in consultation with campus unions, and effective cleaning and hygiene measures are in place. Additional ventilation has been provided in teaching spaces where needed. Fallow periods have been implemented/increased in rooms where needed to ensure pre/post-use clearing of the air. 

Ensure all workers and anyone they interact with during the working day receive adequate instruction, information, and training on any new safety measures that need to be followed.

 

Information and training instructions are being/will be regularly updated as and when new safety measures are put in place. This guidance will be disseminated to staff at school/unit level.

Ensure lateral flow testing is undertaken by highly trained volunteers.

 

 

Ensure access to regular testing for all who are not able to work or study remotely. Where lateral flow tests are used to identify asymptomatic cases, ensure a minimum of two negative tests prior to any attendance on site.

 

Lateral Flow Testing is being offered to staff and students, with a view to building up to between 16,000 to 20,000 per week, with further consideration being given to twice weekly testing. Students are encouraged to book a second test when booking their first one but not all students are attending for their second test.  Consideration is being given to how this can be improved on.  A positive LFT will result in the individual being asked to isolate and referred for a confirmatory PCR test (either internally or through the NHS depending on the circumstances).

Ensure workers and students are given support to quarantine, self-isolate and undertake testing as required. Testing should not be used to reduce isolation periods for close contacts of infected people.

Support for testing, quarantine and isolation is in place for students and testing is not used to reduce isolation periods after a positive PCR test (testing may be used to reduce the quarantine time for international travellers etc. where all prior testing has been negative). To arrange testing see here.

Any workers at increased risk from COVID should not be required to undertake in person work at this time and alternatives should be offered to ensure exposure risks are avoided or minimised.  

Clinically extremely vulnerable staff are not expected to undertake in person work. At present, in person teaching is limited to specific permitted courses and/or year groups for activities which cannot be delivered online, i.e. requiring access to specialist facilities. The situation will remain under review.

*Ventilation

Documents from the Health and safety Executive (HSE), Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) and the Federation of European Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Associations (REHVA) have been issued during the COVID-19 Shutdown. These documents have been updated several times to reflect new knowledge. We have used these documents to aid our response to the Covid-19 situation.

CIBSE COVID-19 Ventilation Guide (Version 4, Published 23rd October 2020)

HSE – Air conditioning and ventilation during the coronavirus outbreak

REHVA COVID-19 Guidance (Version 4, Issued November 17th 2020)

REHVA COVID-19 Limiting Internal air leakage across the Rotary Heat Exchanger

REHVA COVID-19 Use of Fan Coils and avoiding Recirculation

CIBSE – Coronavirus COVID 19

LUCU Committee