Motion Passed at Branch Meeting Calling on Management to Halt Dangerous Pressure to Return to Campus

At the Branch Meeting, 16 September, the branch passed, with none against, a motion calling for a more humane approach to work during the continuing pandemic. The full motion is as follows.

The Queen Mary branch of the University and College Union notes, 

  • Sharp increases in coronavirus cases around the world, home countries of many of our students and huge outbreaks on campuses in the USA, despite many campuses having well-resourced contact tracing and testing regimes.
  • The UK government’s response to coronavirus is widely- judged as poor The test and trace system is not fit for purpose; testing capacity is inadequate and severely rationed, making most staff and students ineligible.
  • Increasing evidence suggests that ‘long covid’ has debilitating effects on people with only mild symptoms.

The Queen Mary branch of the University and College Union further notes that,

  • Staff have put in extraordinary efforts over the summer, forgoing annual leave, to develop online teaching, recruitment, registration and induction of students, and supporting those who remained on campus.
  • This work was done with limited central support for the use of online technologies, and no meaningful central leadership on online pedagogy or instruction design.
  • The key, and well understood, weaknesses of online learning could have been redressed with more support from Teaching Associates and Teaching Fellows, but these important colleagues have been dismissed.

The Queen Mary branch of the University and College Union further regrettably notes that,

  • Management has failed to meaningfully engage with campus unions over relevant health, safety and working conditions decisions.
  • There is evidence that risk assessments have been changed without consultation with the campus unions, a possible breach of health and safety legislation.

The Queen Mary branch of the University and College Union therefore believes that,

  • Any moves to increase the density of staff, students and visitors on campus is at best negligent, and more likely grossly reckless.
  • The default policy, and clear message to staff and students, should be that if work and study can be undertaken remotely, then it should be.
  • The expectation and clear message should be that campus should be kept clear for those who absolutely need to work, study or live on campus.
  • The only staff and students permitted on campus should be those who have no or very limited capacity to work remotely, because of the need to access laboratories or performance spaces, or because of their personal circumstances.

Given the facts above, the Queen Mary branch of the University and College Union therefore believes that,

  • Queen Mary management has made decisions either failing to acknowledge the facts and consequences of those decisions, or has knowing that they will endanger the health of staff, students and the wider community.
  • These decisions erode confidence in the safety and security of campus and the integrity and competence of senior management.

The Queen Mary branch of the University and College Union therefore calls for,

  • Senior management to immediately stop requesting or encouraging staff to work on campus.
  • A “no-repercussions policy” for staff who feel uncomfortable coming to campus and wish to continue working from home.
  • Management to fully and wholeheartedly consult with health and safety representatives, and fulfil their duties to engage with unions as required by legislation, and Queen Mary policy.
  • Management to go further than legal minimums and engage in honest, open and responsive dialogue with campus unions, that results in policies and practices that respect the good judgement and welfare of Queen Mary staff and students.
  • Management to welcome campus unions as full representatives on committees that make decisions affecting health, safety and working practices, including those related to critical incidents, return to campus, and education.
  • All academics and professional service colleagues to engage openly with students about how to not add additional risk of infection for staff, students and the wider community. 
  • The face covering policy revised to ensure that face coverings are worn at all times indoors, except in single occupancy offices.

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