The branch has sent a letter to university management with our concerns about work during the COVID-19 emergency.
Is DUCU operating “normally”?
Yes. Although reps and staff are working remotely, we are still attending (remote) meetings to discuss collective issues and the firstname.lastname@example.org is still being monitored and individuals represented in personal cases. Thanks to our collective efforts we have a strong branch with lots of expertise, so even if reps and members of the committee fall ill or have to step back from DUCU because of caring responsibilities or other issues, we will still function effectively. We are taking, and will continue to take, advice from our Regional Office about how best to perform our duties given the rapidly changing situation we’re in. If you want to get more involved in the day to day running of our branch, now would be an ideal time to volunteer. Please contact the President (email@example.com) to offer your services.
Does COVID-19 mean that ASOS is cancelled?
No, the mandate for ASOS continues until the end of the industrial action period in April.
What about ‘not going the extra mile’?
We appreciate that it will be more difficult than usual to decide what is and is not covered by ASOS. You should stick to your contracted 35 hours, and if you have to spend additional time preparing for an online rather than face to face class, you should be asked for work elsewhere to be taken off you. If you have office hours this week, it is not unreasonable for you to do those by videoconference / telephone, but you should not do office hours in addition to those normally scheduled (so, if you normally do two hours per week, you should continue to do two hours, even if those are by phone or teleconference). If you are not in a student facing role and are asked to pick up additional tasks that are part of your contracted role, you should ask for other duties to be taken off you.
What about covering for absent colleagues?
You should continue to refuse to cover for absent colleagues per the industrial action mandate. If the UCU advice changes, we will let you know.
Surely as this is an emergency, everyone should be helping out?
One of the elements of the dispute relates to workload. We are already working far in excess of our contracted hours, and our employer has called on our goodwill considerably in the past. To date there has been little reciprocity. The employer needs to decide on its priorities, and communicate them. As hard as it seems, we should not work unpaid overtime out of loyalty, but instead ask of our managers and Heads of Departments ‘is this absolutely necessary and what should I drop to do this’?
Is the second industrial action ballot going ahead?
No, not at the moment. Branches, including ours, fed back to the NEC that some members had reservations, and the NEC decided on Friday to withdraw the notice of a ballot. Congress is also likely to be postponed. DUCU will keep updating members about the current industrial action situation.
The university FAQs seem supportive but my manager is not: what should I do?
In meetings with the employer, DUCU has a genuine sense that Durham University wants to be fair and do the right thing regarding protecting staff and students during the coronavirus outbreak. Durham was one of the first institutions to announce measures to help prevent the spread of Covid-19. Nonetheless, many of the issues covered by the University FAQs ultimately come down to managerial interpretation of the guidance and thus decisions may not be consistent. If you are worried that a reasonable request has received an unreasonable response, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org and we will do our best to help you.
Health and safety: what are my rights?
Our colleagues at Edinburgh UCU have produced this helpful summary of health and safety legislation in respect to the pandemic.
I have other questions: whom should I contact?
Please contact your Departmental / Section Rep in the first instance, and if they don’t know the answer they will pass your question on. If they are unavailable, please contact our Branch Administrator / Organiser Sean Laws (email@example.com).