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April, 2020:

SWIRE Online – Thursday April 23 – Edition 03


South West Industrial Relations Exchange Online – 23rd April 2020  – Edition 03

NB – You can share this information in social media using the short URL

National Advice and Guidance

All COVID 19 related issues can be found in one place at  ​

Regional Virtual Drop-in Meetings for Officers

Officers have said how much they get from discussing and listening to other experiences. Whilst physical meet ups are impossible, we can still use the technology for this. Look out in your INBOXES for regular invitations to online SWIRE meetings.  Your regional team is going to try and hold these on a regular basis, probably only for an hour a time and at different times in the week. The first one will be held on Tuesday 28th April at 4 PM and will last for a maximum of one hour. It will be sent to officers as invitation to a SKYPE meeting. If you can accept or decline the invitation when you receive it that would help us know how many participants to expect. ​

Furloughing (laying off staff)

Please note the recently published specific advice for our sectors.   ​See attachments

Officials have now been successful in ensuring that our positioning on this as set out below has been achieved in the vast majority of workplaces within our region

​a. should facilitate working at home wherever possible.

b. should agree to pay 100% of wages throughout the furlough period ​

c. should agree to pay all employer contributions to all occupational pension schemes (individuals will remain liable for their employee contribution – through PAYE) ​

d. should confirm in writing that individuals will suffer no detriment by agreeing to be furloughed including: ​continuity of employment, sick pay, maternity leave and pay, and redundancy rights, continued accrual of annual leave during furlough, access to progression, promotion, and training & development opportunities  ​

e. that employment is guaranteed following furlough ​

f. if on a variable hours or FTC contract, that wages during furlough will be calculated in a fair and transparent manner, taking into account any previous assurances of hours ​

We still await a couple of workplaces confirmation of 100 percent pay. For example, City of Bristol College initially proposed only committing to 100% pay for a period of one month, after which that would be reviewed. UCU made clear that this would be unacceptable, and the College has now revised their position and will be paying the full 100%. ​

Case Work ​

Morin is planning to present a brief online training session for new case workers at the Exeter University branch on handling case work. This might be a good opportunity for other branches to try and recruit new caseworkers as support required for individual case work is likely to increase in the coming weeks. If other branches are interested in Morin conducting an online session with them, then please do get in touch with her at

Please note – this is not intended to replace the usual Introduction to Casework course scheduled to take place in December at our office.  ​

Working From Home

Although we all hope that we will return to our normal workplaces ASAP as we move into the second month of lockdown we are hearing about members who are really feeling stressed and isolated. Please remind yourself of the UCU working from home  policy and our guidance on self care.  See attachments  ​

Anti-casualisation Work

UCU is seeking to ensure that this work still moves at a pace, albeit through online and virtual negotiations. In HE we are hearing some worrying whispers re employers looking to kick out casually employed staff first should a storm of cuts be proposed following this lockdown, and it is vital that all branches do all they can to make as many members as possible as secure as possible as soon as possible! ​

Extension of the Academic Year

​A number of universities have reported that due to the lockdown, extensions have been given to students to complete coursework and assessments.  Some institutions have a large number of clinical NHS degrees and additional training. Releases to NHS front-line roles and extensions to deadlines will also extend the academic year. This means that members will have to complete marking later and be available for (or arrange cover) for teaching and tutorials. This is on top of the work members have been doing at home to ensure students are taught and supported on line, teaching is converted to on line methods of delivery and preparations for next term and the next academic year are completed.

Members are rightly concerned that they will not be able to take their annual leave because management have agreed to extensions or increased deadlines, without consulting and negotiating on the effects they will have. We would like to establish what the position is in the South West and also across sectors, as we are sure there will be issues in FE and Adult Education as well. Please could branches report any concerns and information to ​

Annual Leave ​

We have seen a number of institutions attempt to change annual leave policies, without negotiation. This has ranged from not allowing any leave to be carried over, to not being able to take 3 weeks consecutive leave in July and August. ​UCU have always been clear that annual leave should be taken in year and management should not make it impossible for the full complement of annual leave to be taken. However, there will be circumstances where it is not possible to take leave and policies have been negotiated to reflect that.

If your management are trying to impose changes to policies or to custom and practice please tell us  ​

Organising Support

Please remember that during this difficult time it is important to let your members know what the latest developments in your branch are. It is also a good idea to ask members for their feedback and impressions. To this end I am always available to help with newsletters and communications. Officers are reminded that branches have access to their membership lists via a simple browser-based system called eServices. If you need this setting up, or training in it, please contact me.

​Keep safe everyone  ​

Best wishes

 Nick, Catriona, Philippa, Dave, Morin and Rebecca