UCU calls for Universities to offer online teaching only.
Letter from Jo Grady (29 August, 2020)
UCU has called on the government and universities to switch to fully online teaching as the default for the duration of next term. We have not taken this decision lightly but we believe that it is in the best interests of staff, students and the public. Read the story outlining our position here.
I recognise the extra effort which it will take to switch to fully online teaching and the challenges which it poses for staff as well as students - but making this change now is nothing compared with waiting until midway through term, when reopened campuses lead to a spate of local lockdowns. It is nothing compared with the public health consequences of letting more than a million students move around the country and asking hundreds of thousands of staff to return to face to face activities.
We hope universities and the government will take notice, see sense, abandon plans to re-open campuses, and prevent a situation that could see universities becoming the care homes of a second wave of covid-19.
What is your union doing?
We have now updated our own guidance for branches and published it today. A number of UCU branches have already called on their employer to withdraw as much face-to-face teaching and other activities as possible and we are now encouraging all branches to push their employer to take this approach.
Our position is in line with the five tests which we published in early June, and with the important recent consultation document by the Independent Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Independent SAGE).
UCU is putting as much pressure as possible on all government representatives across the UK to give employers the strongest possible steer in this direction, and provide the funding and support necessary to make online teaching work for students as well as staff. I personally have already raised these concerns in conversations with the UK minister for universities and with the employers' representative body, Universities UK.
We are also hosting an online event on Tuesday with representatives from Independent Sage which I encourage you all to tune in for.
What can I do?
UCU can call on the government and employers to change their position but ultimately we can only keep everyone safe through the collective strength and understanding of our members. You need to make sure you are fully informed of your health and safety rights and be ready to come together in your branch and press your managers in your institution to act in your and your students' best interests. Please also encourage as many of your colleagues as possible to join the union. Our strength is in our numbers and willingness to act together.
Since the pandemic started we have been giving members advice on health and safety and their rights at work, so please do consult these links:
see our advice to branches on members’ health and safety rights under Section 44 of the 1996 Employment Rights Act
section 44 rights were also covered in this online event on employment law issues with our head of legal services and two barristers
our regional and devolved national offices have been holding webinars for health and safety reps, and our head office staff also held this webinar on campus reopening last month
we have also issued specific advice regarding protections for BAME members of staff
If you have any further questions or concerns about your safety, as always, please contact your branch health and safety rep or your regional or devolved national office.
UCU general secretary