Workplace Report November 2020

Health & safety news

Support staff left to deal with ‘campus chaos’

University support staff are being left to manage the fallout, threats and abuse from frustrated students in isolation, without extra support or recognition, says UNISON. Security officers at one university report regularly risking their own safety to break up rowdy groups of students angry at lockdown restrictions. Meanwhile cleaners and catering staff are putting in shifts of up to 16 hours to provide deep cleaning and make and deliver three meals a day to thousands of students in their rooms.

The UCU lecturers’ union lays the blame for the crisis on campuses squarely at the door of the Westminster government. “Ministers were given clear recommendations on how to stem the spread of the virus before term started at the vast majority of universities,” said UCU general secretary Jo Grady. “They could have taken swift and decisive action then and instructed universities to move their teaching online to mitigate against tens of thousands of students moving across the country.”

Instead, says the UCU, the government has ignored expert advice and decided to put the health of university staff, students and local communities at risk.