Text of two motions passed at an Imperial UCU all members’ meeting on 29/9/21:
Motion 1 on COVID-19 safety at Imperial College
Imperial College UCU notes that:
- the UK currently has over 30,000 new cases of COVID-19 daily and fatality rates over a thousand per week. These are much higher than in comparable nearby countries
- Vaccination significantly reduces the risk of death but the risk of infection far less. As the virus is airborne, masks are effective in preventing transmission.
- current College policy is that “everyone [should] wear a face covering [in] most indoor settings on campus”. However, visible signage to this effect has been removed in most campus locations.
- current DfE guidance states, “No student should be denied education on the grounds of whether they are, or are not, wearing a face covering.” However, staff are partially liable under health and safety law for their own and students’ safety. They have the right to suspend a face-to-face class and deliver it online if alternatives are unsafe. Denying a student education is not the same as denying participation in a face-to-face setting if the latter would be unsafe.
Imperial College UCU believes that:
- rising UK infection rates show that government guidelines have failed to protect UK residents
- Imperial College remains a hazardous environment for both staff and students.
Imperial College UCU believes the following protections must be in place before face-to-face teaching can resume:
- masks to be required in all indoor areas for all those who can wear them, and in all cramped, crowded, poorly ventilated outdoor areas (eg, South Ken walkway, entrance to Beit Quad)
- physical distancing to be maintained at 2m
- room occupancy to be based on 12 – 17 L pp ps ventilation AND CO2 <800 ppm measured by real time CO2 monitors provided by College, with immediate evacuation if CO2 levels reach 800ppm
- for prolonged occupation of rooms, refresh times to be calculated for removal of aerosols and measured return of CO2 to background level (~ 400-440 ppm). Speed of aerosol removal will depend on the rate of air circulation. A solid evidence base for this must be established
- room occupancy limits for teaching to be the same for other activities, whichever is lower
- radio microphones to be provided to individual teachers
- no staff or student to undertake face-to-face activities if they feel unsafe; no action to be taken against such staff or students
- teaching to maintain a level academic playing field. This may require default online teaching to avoid discrimination against protected groups unable to come onto campus
- all measures to be equalities impact assessed before implementation
- all risk assessments to be transparent and made available to staff and students
These measures will be subject to review and amendment in the event of new variants or new lockdowns.
We believe that failure to implement these measures would be a failure of the College in its duty of care to staff and students, leading to potential future legal action against both the College and those individuals who have signed off on inadequate risk assessments
Under Section 44 of the Employment Relations Act, staff have the right to remove themselves from a work situation they believe to be a serious, imminent and unavoidable danger without detriment or penalty.
Motion 2 on COVID-19 and flexible working at Imperial College
Imperial College UCU would like to be supported on staff flexible working arrangements during academic year 2021-2022 in the following manner
- Any Imperial staff member should be given the option to continue working from home if their roles do not need them to physically be in an office or lecture room and other alternatives are feasible to meet their job duties
- Any member who has been asked to return to campus for certain number of days should have the option to decline it, if they can work remotely and their performance is not affected by not being physically on campus
- Managers should work with their staff to allow flexibility on when to be on campus.
- Personal and travel arrangements should be considered with the safety of staff being a priority.
- Imperial staff should be supported if they choose to work from campus whenever they like provided they follow suitable health and safety procedures
- All imperial staff who are carers, vulnerable or have been shielding in the last 18 months should be given the opportunity to work from home if they like until further notice without any negative consequences
These proposals are subject to review and amendment depending on changed circumstances such as the emergence of a new variant or new lockdowns.