Return to campus working at Sheffield Hallam is ‘not safe’ says academic union

A union representing staff at Sheffield Hallam University is urging the institution to change its approach and immediately ban face-to-face teaching to help avert a ‘local public health crisis'.

Tuesday, 29th September 2020, 4:42 pm

The Sheffield Hallam University branch of the University and College Union (UCU) has issued a ‘failure to agree’ notice amid concerns that face-to-face teaching will cause a “serious” outbreak of coronavirus among the university campus.

In an online post on Sunday, the union said the decision by Sheffield Hallam University (SHU) to return to in-person teaching risks “overwhelming our already strained NHS clinics and local hospitals” and threatens not only the safety of academic staff and students but the city as a whole.

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Sheffield Hallam University.

It is now calling for the university to immediately move all teaching online until it adopts a 'safety first approach’ to campus working.

The Sheffield Hallam UCU branch said: “Since the outset of this crisis the union has worked side by side with management to plan for a safe return to campus working.

"However, we feel they have not sufficiently discharged their duty of care to employees to provide adequate and fit for purpose risk assessments that suit current conditions. A number of factors must be addressed before the campus can be declared as ‘Covid-Save’ [sic].”

The union claims that although some areas of the university are now entirely online, others are insisting that all students attend campus for a minimum of four hours per week “regardless of the safety risks, pedagogical or practical necessity.”

It says this approach is putting everyone at an “uneccesary risk” and in some cases is providing a much-worse experience for students than remote learning would.

“A ‘Failure to Agree’ notice does not mean a strike,” the union added.

"It forces the University to publically answer the concerns we have raised regarding the safety of the campus. Similar disputes are being triggered at universities all over the UK where face to face teaching is being prioritised over safety.

"The next stage to this will be to trigger an official dispute. However, we truly hope that we can convince Management at SHU to reconsider their position before it comes to this.”

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