Union anger over safety ‘nuisance’

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SHEFFIELD University is under fire from unions after claims managers described health and safety regulations as a ‘nuisance’.

Lecturers in the University and College Union began a work to rule earlier this month over planned changes to their pension scheme.

Part of the action involves union members being extra vigilant over working practices and ‘to undertake no duties in breach of health and safety policies’ - including refusing to use equipment that has not been safety-checked.

But the UCU says the university responded with a ‘macho’ briefing for managers which referred to health and safety rules as a nuisance.

General secretary Sally Hunt said employers had misread the depth of feeling over pensions and now seemed to be taking this out on staff.

“I find it extraordinary, even during a dispute, that an employer should describe health and safety as a nuisance. We will be writing to the Health and Safety Executive and asking them to take the matter up,” she said.

“This kind of macho strategy is all too typical and I urge the university to withdraw its briefing.

“Rather than down playing health and safety, the university should be joining with us to get the national negotiations back on track so we can resolve this dispute as swiftly as possible.”

Lecturers are protesting about changes imposed at the start of the month that they say will see them pay more to work longer with less protection should they lose their job.

But a university spokeswoman said they took the health and safety of both its students and staff very seriously and would never regard such regulations as a ‘nuisance’.

“The word ‘nuisance’ was taken from UCU’s national guidance to its members and was used on the university’s web pages to advise staff that any action taken by them should not compromise health and safety regulations.”

The university would be working hard to ensure students were not affected by action being taken and normal business continued as normal, she added.