On 10 December 2020 the University Council endorsed a management proposal that blended learning including face-to-face teaching be offered to students in all degree programmes effective from the week commencing 1 February 2021. This action was taken without consultation with the recognised trade unions and management have not confirmed whether staff who refuse to work on campus will face disciplinary procedures.
At an extraordinary UCU branch meeting on Wednesday 16 December 2020 a motion was passed instructing the branch committee to enter into a formal dispute with the University regarding these plans and calling on the University to move to online learning (except for practical work) for the Spring and Summer Term 2021, allowing staff to opt-in to work on campus (where and when it is safe to do so). A copy of this motion is below.
The motion also calls on the branch committee to hold an indicative ballot of members on the willingness to vote for and take industrial action if this proves necessary. This ballo opened today and emails have gone to all eligible members.
The branch committee strongly encourages you to VOTE YES to both of the ballot questions. This will allow the committee to consider all options to protect the health and safety of staff and students.
Although we are running this indicative ballot via email, any formal ballot for industrial action will need to be a postal ballot. It is therefore vital that you check and update your membership details via www.ucu.org.uk/myucu in readiness.
Any ballot queries should be sent to email@example.com
On Blended Learning and Face-to-Face Provision at UoE in 2021
Proposed by: Jak Peake.
Seconded by: David Rush.
This Branch notes that:
- University of Essex (UoE) management has not agreed to online student-facing work and teaching as a default option despite calls for this from SAGE, Independent SAGE and UCU nationally and locally;
- UoE management has proposed that blended learning – including face-to-face teaching – be offered to students in all degree programmes effective from the week commencing 1 February 2021;
- UoE management has not confirmed whether increased risk, clinically non-vulnerable and non-shielding staff who refuse to work on campus will face disciplinary procedures;
- UoE have taken this action without consulting the trades unions.
This Branch believes that:
- UoE management’s current plans for the Spring Term pose a risk to the health of staff and are likely to pose uneven pressures in different departments, schools and sections; as a consequence, real equality and fairness at UoE is under threat;
- Staff ought not to be pressured into modes of work that risk their health or the health of their families or their local communities;
- January through to March will be, in the words of England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty, “the highest risk period” and that, despite the arrival of a vaccine, for “the next three months we will not have sufficient protection”;
- By abandoning the cautious approach adopted in the Autumn Term, management’s current plans will be running the risk of increasing Covid-19 infection rates significantly;
- Consequently, decisive action is needed at UoE to stem the spread of Covid-19 and to safeguard staff, students, their families and the wider community;
- UoE should move to online learning (except for practical work) for the Spring and Summer Term 2021, allowing staff to opt-in to work on campus (where and when it is safe to do so).
This Branch therefore resolves:
- For the University of Essex branch committee to write to management informing them of the branch’s concerns regarding its proposals and to enter into a formal dispute with the University on this issue and to call for urgent meetings to resolve this matter.
- To hold an indicative ballot of members calling for industrial action in some form over UoE management’s plans for the Spring Term 2021.
- That the University of Essex branch committee will consider the outcome of this indicative ballot and consider the viability of running a formal ballot for industrial action.