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The University and College Union at The University of St Andrews

UCU Scotland: Safe Return to “Campus”

The Scottish Government has updated the guidance on safe returns touniversity campuses, following consultation with employers, NUS and trade unions.   The Scottish Government’s communication on the guidance is here: the updated guidance is at this link:

Branches should ensure their employers follow the guidance, especially its focus on a cautious and risk assessed approach – with full involvement of trade unions.   The guidance recognises that campuses won’t open as normal this academic year, and campus life won’t be like pre-Covid19 times.  

Disappointingly earlier drafts which emphasised default remote learning/working have disappeared, however, branches should continue to push employers to ensure that any working or learning that can be done remotely should be done so for now.  Indeed, the Scottish Government guidance says universities must work to  “the most up todate guidance on working from home and other public health measures”.  The Scottish Government’s current position is “Organisations should make every reasonable effort to make working from home the default position. Where a worker can perform their work from home, they should continue to do so”.   This fits with UCU’s view that remote working and online learning should be the default position.

UCU is reiterating our position of default remote working, and that this should take precedence, which should limit all face to face contact on campus.  The Scottish Government guidance incorporates other important measure should as two metres physical distancing, the use of face coverings, and additional hygiene measures which will be vital over the coming months and weeks.

UCU is questioning why the guidance does allow for teaching groups of up to 50 students at a time, when it also says that socially people can only meet in groups of eight indoors or 15 outside.  UCU has called for the guidance to be consistent throughout to help with compliance.     The union has also expressed disappointment at the inclusion of threats of disciplinaries for staff and students for any breaches of the Covid-19 guidelines.   We agree the rules should be followed, but heavy handed threats should not be meted out to students and staff at a time which is already uncertain and worrying for many.

We would encourage branches to use the guidance constructively in their own institutions, together with the union’s updated guidance and the key issues and positions agreed by the UCU Scotland officers and branch health and safety reps last week (attached).   

In addition, as outlined in our Friday branch email, the Scottish Government’s individual risk assessment guide will be useful for all staff.

For further advice and support on safe returns to campus please contact .

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