On Tuesday 17th March representatives of the two largest workplace trade unions on campus, BUCU and Unison, agreed and sent the following joint letter to senior managers at the University of Birmingham.
This followed previous joint communications on the 16th March detailing points raised by members, and urgently calling for the University to bring forward the campus close date to the 20th March, close down remaining support services, and to clearly define what presence the University considers ‘essential’.
Further advice for members can be found at: Advice for members on Covid-19
We are writing as joint union representatives to express our concerns about the University’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and to request that the University undertake the following actions:
Close all non-essential buildings and services by 5pm Friday 20 March;
Guarantee that all staff (including casual and agency staff) will be paid for their usual work hours and will receive sick pay if unwell;
Clearly define which campus services are considered essential and what safe-guarding is in place for these workers required to come to work;
Communicate this information to all staff members.
In these requests, we are essentially asking that the University of Birmingham follow the government’s advice which is that “businesses and workplaces should encourage their employees to work at home, wherever possible”(1). We note also that UCU have nationally called for all universities to close and that the “parameters [of closure] should be agreed with UCU and other staff trade unions which prioritise the safety of students and staff” (2). We consider the above to be appropriate actions for the safeguarding of students and staff.
We understand the situation is fast-moving and so we would welcome a response on this as soon as practicable.
BUCU Committee & University of Birmingham Unison Committee
‘Guidance for employers and businesses on coronavirus (COVID-19)’, Gov.uk https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/guidance-for-employers-and-businesses-on-coronavirus-covid-19 [accessed 17 March 2020]
UCU coronavirus advice, UCU https://www.ucu.org.uk/coronavirus [accessed 17 March 2020]