Coronavirus is a trade union issue

Coronavirus is a trade union issue. That much is clear when we see how university staff are combining attempts to continue delivering teaching, research and support with measures to protect working conditions. This involves everything from demanding that staff working in ‘essential services’ are adequately clothed and compensated to defending the rights of casualised staff who are likely to bear the immediate brunt of the crisis; and from ensuring that temporary moves to online delivery are not ‘normalised’ to arguing that vice-chancellors should show goodwill to staff working flat-out to put modules and support services online by scrapping deductions for the recent strikes.

We have heard that some managements are using home working as an opportunity to play up the benefits of an improved ‘work-life balance’ and refusing demands to pay for basic essentials like ergonomic chairs and broadband. Some universities stand out and have offered concessions – from four-day weeks to rest days and from scrapping pay deductions to guaranteeing fixed-term contract extensions – but, by and large, these have not been delivered as a gift but won as a result of strong union organisation. Every branch needs urgently to table a list of demands in order to protect all those staff working flat out to keep their institutions running in incredibly challenging circumstances. Coronavirus activist groups, branch committees, health & safety committees, and staff-student coordinating groups need to be aware of what has been won and to demand the same for their own institutions. We need negotiated agreements on temporary changes to working conditions and new Memoranda of Understanding on online delivery. Please do send us your successes –

Reduced working weeks and well-being days

Newcastle’s four day week
Strathclyde’s rest days

Exeter University’s rest days announcement (31 March)

Aberdeen University rest days announcement (25 March)

Temporary changes to working conditions

On Panopto, strike deductions, detriment – and other negotiations’ – excellent email to members from Leicester UCU (30 March)

Kings’ College London
Leeds UCU agenda for negotiation

Exeter UCU update on discussions with management, 27 March 2020

Fixed-term and hourly-paid staff

Read this whole thread and congrats to Sheffield UCU

#CoronaContract petition: Casualised staff demand universities guarantee two years work

Goldsmiths UCU list of issues concerning hourly-paid academic for negotiation (31 March)

UCU Anti-Casualisation Committee petition to support hourly-paid staff

Scrapping/postponing strike deductions

Huge congrats to UCL UCU
Newcastle UCU
Liverpool UCU
Southampton UCU
St Andrews
Birkbeck, University of London

Kings College London statement

Cardiff UCU petition against pay deductions

Queen Mary UCU petition against pay deductions

Durham UCU letter to the vice-chancellor on strike deductions (27 March)

Thompsons Solicitors: Briefing on Employers’ and Employees’ Responsibilities in the Wake of Coronavirus (17 March)

Durham University: Joint union statement on agency workers and workers on construction sites

Pausing of consultations during Covid-19 crisis

Goldsmiths senior management ‘pauses’ Evolving Goldsmiths programme (need password) (27 March 2020)

Portsmouth University suspends consultation on English Department cuts

Official union advice

UCU branch guidance: Bargaining to protect members during the Covid-19 crisis (30 March)

UCU guidance on working from home and teaching online (March 2020)

TUC advice: What are the rules if you’re temporarily laid off? (31 March)

UCU guidance: The Coronavirus job retention scheme (furloughed staff) (March 2020)

UCU guidance: Disability and the Coronavirus (March 2020)

UCU: Protecting precarious workers (31 March)

Databases on Covid-19 for HE sector

Positive policies by universities in response to the Covid-19 crisis (Sophie Smith)

Immediate proposals to universities and Department of Education (Andrew Chitty)

Sources on Covid-19 and UK Higher Education (Andrew Chitty)

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