Edinburgh University staff warn they will strike over ‘dangerous’ working conditions

Academic staff held an emergency meeting last week calling for industrial action to prevent a pre-emptive return to non-essential on-campus activity.

Tuesday, 19th January 2021, 4:45 pm
UCU branch at the University of Edinburgh demands staff stop being coerced into unsafe on campus activity

This follows an ongoing campaign, including a petition signed by over 850 members of and a formal dispute lodged by the branch in December.

Today a consultative ballot has opened where all union members, this is the last step before voting directly on industrial action.

A union representative said the move for potential strike action followed the development of the rapidly spreading coronavirus strain and the Scottish Government’s announcement of another lockdown.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

While pressure from the union has reduced the extent of on campus activity, libraries remain open and members are “deeply concerned” that they will be coerced back on campus before it is safe.

The union said it has not been included in up-to-date health and safety risk assessments, which take into account the virulence of the new variant of the virus.

The branch also argues that management’s lack of decisive action at various points throughout the pandemic has undermined the wellbeing of teaching and support staff.

Staff have grown increasingly concerned about the wellbeing of staff, students and the wider population as teaching resumes.

UCU Edinburgh branch spokesperson Vivek Santayana said: ‘The new variant of Covid means that it is even more dangerous for on campus activity to resume this term. This threatens not just our members, but the health and wellbeing of students and the wider public. Our members have been getting in touch with us; they are afraid and feel they are running out of options.

“At this point, we feel it is important that we are able to take industrial action to protect our health and safety should our members be asked to return to campus before it is safe.”

A spokesperson from the university said: “The safety and wellbeing of our staff and students is of paramount importance, and has been taken into careful consideration throughout the pandemic.

“We are working with Public Health Scotland to ensure all appropriate health and safety measures are in place.

“These policies have been informed by Scottish Government guidance, which we will continue to review and work with - in liaison with union representatives - as advice changes.”

A message from the Editor:Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.