UCU criticises Scottish government over “unsafe” university return

The UCU has criticised the Scottish government for saying that university staff can return to work on campuses from Monday before promised guidance on safe working in universities has been published.

 The First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon MSP, said on Thursday that university staff could return next week as part of the Scottish government’s plans to move to stage two of its route map out of lockdown. 

UCU said it was wrong for the Scottish government to be telling staff it was safe to return to work while it had not yet signed off and published the guidance for safe working on university campuses. The union has welcomed the Scottish government’s process for consulting with universities and trade unions on the draft guidance.

However, it said it was illogical to give the green light to staff returning more widely before that guidance is published. Where sectoral guidance has been devised in other sectors, the guidance has been agreed prior to staff returning. 

UCU Scotland official Mary Senior said: “University staff have been working tirelessly since the beginning of this crisis to move and deliver teaching and support for students online. UCU has been working with the Scottish government to develop critical guidance to allow universities to move back to campus-based teaching when the time is right and it is safe for staff and students. 

“It is hugely disappointing, and will be worrying for staff, to see the First Minister announce that staff can return to university buildings before the guidance we and others have been working so hard to produce is even published. This move is out of step with every other sector. In the absence of the guidance, and the opportunity for everyone to be reassured that the guidance, along with a risk assessment-based approach is met and adhered to, it would be foolhardy for universities to be demanding staff return to workplaces.”

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