The University and College Union (UCU) has now declared a formal trade dispute with the University of Birmingham over on-campus working and teaching. This marks the first step in the union’s move to ballot for industrial action.
Citing serious health and safety concerns about the University’s return to on-campus working and teaching, UCU has in particular highlighted the:
- Failure of the University to restrict numbers of staff and students on campus to essential-only and;
- Failure to agree with UCU an acceptable model of teaching provision in response to the Coronavirus Pandemic.
This is the first step towards balloting for industrial action, which the University of Birmingham branch of UCU is committed now to doing.
UCU Branch President at the University of Birmingham, Dr David Bailey, said, “Our members are increasingly alarmed at the rapidly rising number of infections amongst students at the University and in the surrounding areas in the city – especially Selly Oak and Edgbaston.
“Amongst students at the University, the rate of infection now equates to over 1,000 cases per 100,000 students, in just one week.
“University staff are extremely concerned about these developments. In a recent survey of our members, 82 percent agreed that the University’s current plans for returning to campus are unsafe and that UCU should oppose this.
“There is also widespread confusion amongst staff and students across the University. Staff and students report being unsure how to notify the University of infections, what to do if students or staff cannot attend classes due to self-isolating, how to move classes if students prefer to move online, or how the University will support and administer testing for staff/students. Staff have also raised concerns that they have been discouraged from isolating or moving classes online, even when they have taught students who have since tested positive.
“We are calling for the University to move all teaching and working to online-only as the default option, except where this is practically impossible.
“The current approach of the University – insisting that staff and students both work and attend classes on-campus – is putting the health and safety of staff, students, and the local community, at risk. The sharp rise in infections is clear evidence that this is not safe.”