UCU advice: If you have any concerns about your #workingfromhome set up or what’s being asked of you, raise it with your line manager and your local UCU branch. Read the full UCU updated guidance for advice on

  • setting up a safe working space at home
  • checking your employer’s expectations
  • your employer’s responsibilities to you
  • moving to online teaching
  • protecting your intellectual property

and this one for taking care of yourself. Other ressources can be found in the general Information on UCU’s response to the Covid-19 emergency.

Week 7 – 30 April

1. University Finances: Following the VC’s email last week (23/04/2020, “There are of course a range of additional savings measures that could be taken if necessary to control spend and recruitment, and these will be discussed in partnership with the wider Senior Management team, Senate, the campus trade unions, Students’ Guild and Students’ Union before any final decisions are made. All decisions will be made based on our values and with equity and fairness as core principles.” ), we really welcomed his openness at this hugely difficult time, where honest conversations will need to be had. However we absolutely need to have a full understanding of the financial situation and be kept in the loop. We have asked for the University to open its books to the Trade Unions. Next Monday, we have our Termly joint union meeting with VC and Chair of Council along with other senior management (JCCN -Joint Committee for Consultation and Negotiation Meeting). Importantly, at this coming meeting, there will be a briefing from the university Chief Financial Officer (Andrew Connolly) about the ongoing impact of the Covid-19 crisis on the university finances.

2. Workload and Stress. Today we are surveying members about their working conditions after nearly 7 weeks of working from home. It is hugely important that we collect evidence on the impact of the current situation on staff wellbeing if we need to resist imposition of a managerial ‘new normal’ in the light of Covid-19. Please fill in the survey before 8:00am on Thursday 7th of May, so that we can report back and discuss results within the EUCU Committee meeting at 11am.

This may also be useful for our representation on the first high-level University meeting on stress and wellbeing planned for that Thursday afternoon. The University is bringing together a high level group focused directly on the experiences and wellbeing of the whole university community – students and staff in this crisis; this will be chaired by Prof. Janice Kay and have a broad membership. The university sees the role of the TUs on this group as key. We are currently working with our sister unions, Unite and Unison to ensure all three campus unions have a strong voice and it will provide another route for us to raise and share your concerns (and also, a place where your ideas and solutions can also be shared) with senior management and the wider university community. The first meeting will be on 7th May and weekly thereafter. We will keep you updated on this group regularly going forward and we will link to the full Terms of reference once these are finalised. Please do contact us if you want something to reach this group.

3. Representation of members. The University is asking more and more to have Unions represented on various Committees, but does not provide the facility time. While we are continually pressing on this issue to be resolved as soon as possible (see open letter to the VC last year, 09-12-2019), we currently need representation on the Workload Planning Steering Group (next meeting 10th of June). If you are interested to help the Branch on this role, please contact the EUCU President. We are also looking for more caseworkers and have online training available next Tuesday at 11am. Due to the current situation, there is no AGM planned this spring, we expect a new branch administrator to start in July, and with this extra help, we hope to plan an AGM in the autumn. In the meantime, we are particularly looking for a new Health & Safety Officer and H&S Workload Rep. and there are other important roles vacant on the Committee, so do consider how you can get involved and please approach us if you are interested to join us and build the branch.

Week 5 – 17 April

1. Strike deductions. We are hoping that the University will relook at their response.

2. Costs for working from home.

  • £6/week for Working From Home. The response to our request last week to consider the additional £6/week allowance for those of us working from home has unfortunately been refused at this stage, as this would cost £250,000 and this would put pressure on the University budget. We would hope that the University might reconsider its decision. In the meantime, it is useful to know that you can claim home working office allowance from HMRC by filling the P87 form or online.
  • Health and safety. There has been no reply yet to our query about purchasing our own equipment (e.g. chairs) and getting refunds, but we remind members that it is really important to complete the DSE self-assessment to ensure that you are provided with the appropriate level of equipment required for home working. The latest Registrar email (16/04/2020) contains new information for us to request equipment from our offices to be delivered at home.
  • Mobile phones. All important messages that would be texted to members will be sent by email, so there is no requirement to have or to give personal mobile phone numbers if you do not wish to do so.

3. Teaching and assessment update. We are very conscious of the concerns of members particularly around online marking of very large cohorts, and we want to work with the University to ensure that as far as possible some of these concerns can be alleviated. It is therefore important for members to let us know their specific concerns so that this is raised at higher levels.

4. Research Updates. UKRI has announced that they will consider funded 6-month extensions for students who were due to finish between 1 March 2020 and 31 March 2021. The University and the DVC Neil Gow are investigating what it would cost the University to extend studentships and contracts if not done with research councils. We will keep you updated.

5. Security for Casualised Staff. We’ve agreed the general principles under which furloughing will be carried out, and we’ll be feeding back on the details. Note the furloughing page includes the following reference:

“The University has discussed the principles of the furlough scheme with trade union representatives, who have indicated their broad support for the University’s actions. The University has also shared the employee FAQ and manager guidance with trade union representatives and invited them to comment on these documents. The Government is also updating its guidance on a regular basis. This means that both the employee FAQ and manager guidance are likely to be revised to take account of trade union feedback and new Government guidance. These webpages will be updated to reflect these changes.”

The page includes an extensive list of FAQ, and if you cannot find an answer here, the University has also provided an email address that staff can contact. We would encourage members to talk to the Union first.

Week 4 – 10 April

1. Strike deductions. More Russell Group Universities are taking steps to indefinetely suspend or cancel pay deductions. Given the huge “heroic” efforts being put in by our members, which are far in excess of any work lost due to the industrial action, we are awaiting a response from the University to reconsider the issue.

2. Costs for working from home. The University guidance on homeworking currently states that “No additional payments will be made to staff due to homeworking.”

  • £6/week for Working From Home. If you are required to work from home (as many of us are now as a result of Covid-19), you are entitled to claim an extra tax-free £6/week to cover extra costs, such as business calls or extra gas and electricity. We have thus asked the University to start paying staff who are now required to work from home an extra tax-free £6/week.
  • Health and safety. We are also asking the University to provide staff with the equipment they require to work from home in order to minimise health and safety issues. We have asked an assurance that any reasonable accommodation for such essential purchases will be made.
  • Mobile phones. In yesterday Registrar’s email (09/04/2020),we were asked to make sure we provided a mobile number for Trent, for the emergency text system, so that we would be updated with any “urgent essential information”. If staff need access to a mobile for work purposes and to be able to get such messages, we have asked if there a mechanism in place to enable them to be provided with one.

3. Your teaching is your intellectual property: section 4.2 of the lecture capture policy. The IP policy gives the terms of the license that you give the University when not opting out of the RECAP recording (5-years royalty-free etc).  Exeter UCU negotiated a robust take-down and deletion paragraph in the lecture capture policy (section 4.2).  That gives you the right to request that your recordings are not used for ANY purposes by the University, beyond the original cohort for which the recording was made. In other words you can ask for your recordings to be available only to the current students and refer to section 4.2 of the lecture capture policy.

4. Temporary Variation to Employment Procedures. You will have seen from the Registrar email that we have been in negotiations with the University to ensure that members interests have been taken into account. As a result we have agreed temporary changes to employment procedures. We’ve negotiated for this to end on 30th of June and any further extensions will have to be through negotiation. If members have any concern whatsover about the implementation of these temporary changes to contract, please do get in touch with us.

5. Research Updates We are seeking clarification from the University about the position of externally funded contracts, e.g. support staff, postdocs and our postgraduate members concerned about their PhD submissions dates. We want to make sure that extensions will be fair and reflect, in particular, the difficulties facing those undertaking experimental projects. We are actively taking this up and would welcome any feedback or concerns. We would also like to hear your views on the REF2021 preparations.

6. Security for Casualised Staff. Next week, expect some information about the negotiated agreement for furloughing.

As always, we want to hear from you. What are your concerns and what support do you need? Please be in touch.

Earlier updates throughout the crisis (Week 2):

  • Unions/university meetings: 26/03/20 inc. contracts due to end in the next weeks, students who are currently unable to leave university accommodation, deduction of strike pay, furloughing of some staff, skills audit. 24/03/20 inc. caring responsabilities, migrant/international staff/students & setting boundaris with MS-TEAMS.
  • 24/03/20 message from the EUCU President