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health and safety

Health and Safety: heatwave advice

Colleagues,

Today may be the hottest day ever recorded in the UK and bad as it might be outside, it’s even worse inside.

High temperatures at work

In the absence of any well-publicized advice from our employer on how to deal with high temperatures and humidity at work, the advice from the Health and Safety Executive is worth a look:

  •  add or remove layers of clothing depending on how hot or cold you are
  •  use a desk or pedestal fan to increase air movement
  •  use window blinds (if available) to cut down on the heating effects of the sun
  •  in warm situations, drink plenty of water (avoid caffeinated or carbonated drinks)
  •  if possible, work away from direct sunlight or sources of radiant heat
  •  take regular breaks to cool down in warm situations and heat up in cold situations
  •  raise the issue with your managers or, if you can, with your union or other workplace representatives

Go to the library

The University Librarian advises that:

… if it suits, colleagues are always very welcome to work in the Library – it is quiet and relatively cool as a building and open for all to use, with fixed PCs as well as wifi/power etc. (no need for cards at this time of year).

We now allow coffee and tea into the building, if they are in reusable cups, for those who prefer to work with caffeine.

TUC campaign

Given the effects of climate change, high temperatures in workplaces will only become worse for the foreseeable future. The TUC is campaigning on introducing regulations on high temperatures at work, which might at least give us the status of a chicken in a truck.

Your legal responsibility

In law (Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974), you are responsible for looking after yourself:

It shall be the duty of every employee while at work—

(a)to take reasonable care for the health and safety of himself and of other persons who may be affected by his acts or omissions at work; and

If you believe that your working conditions are not safe, get in touch with a union representative.

Our employer’s responsibility

In the same legislation, our employer is responsible for making it possible for us to look after ourselves:

(1) It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.

(2)Without prejudice to the generality of an employer’s duty under the preceding subsection, the matters to which that duty extends include in particular—

(e)the provision and maintenance of a working environment for his employees that is, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe, without risks to health, and adequate as regards facilities and arrangements for their welfare at work.

Petition: Put lost strike wages into mental health services & the student hardship fund

Staff at the University of Bath and other UK universities are taking strike action to defend their pensions. For each day we are on strike, we lose a day’s pay. We believe that our lost wages should go into a hardship fund for our students and towards improving mental health support for students and staff.

All staff and students are invited to sign this petition to university senior management.

To find out why staff are going on strike, see “Background: Why are we striking?” below.

The Petition

Dear Professor Lambert (Pro-VC Learning & Teaching),

The same marketisation agenda that sees universities cutting staff pay and increasing their workloads and job insecurity has led to ever-increasing tuition fees, ballooning rents, and growing numbers of students having to work part-time jobs simply to get by.

When staff are forced to take strike action to defend their pensions, their lost wages should go directly into a fund to support students and staff worst hit by university marketisation, including those hit by financial hardship and mental health problems. Lost wages should not be allowed to disappear into general university budgets or into senior management pay.

We call on you as the Pro-Vice Chancellor for Learning and Teaching to commit to ensuring that all money saved on the wages of striking staff goes into the University of Bath Hardship Fund and towards improving mental health support for staff and students.

Put lost strike wages into mental health services & the student hardship fund

Dear Professor Lambert,

The same marketisation agenda that sees universities cutting staff pay and increasing their workloads and job insecurity has led to ever-increasing tuition fees, ballooning rents, and growing numbers of students having to work part-time jobs simply to get by.

When staff are forced to take strike action to defend their pensions, their lost wages should go directly into a fund to support students and staff worst hit by university marketisation, including those hit by financial hardship and mental health problems. Lost wages should not be allowed to disappear into general university budgets or into senior management pay.

We call on you as the Pro-Vice Chancellor for Learning and Teaching to commit to ensuring that all money saved on the wages of striking staff goes into the University of Bath Hardship Fund and towards improving mental health support for staff and students.

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1,039 signatures

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Background: Why are we striking?

University Vice Chancellors are trying to take away our guaranteed pensions and cut our retirement income by an average of £10,000 per year. Our union, UCU, has tried to negotiate for months, but the employers will not listen. Professor Glynis Breakwell, our outgoing Vice Chancellor, is also paid £50,000 per year to be a Director of our pension scheme!

We desperately want to avoid strike action but have been left with no choice – we simply cannot allow Vice Chancellors, who have already taken so much from staff and students, to take away our security in retirement as well.

University staff have accepted pay levels that are lower than comparably skilled professions, partly because we had a decent pension. Now our right to security and dignity in older age is under attack. If employers get their way:

  • Final pensions would depend on how the stock market performs not on how much we pay in.
  • Our pension (i.e. retirement pay) would be cut by between 20% and 40%.
  • We will have the worst pensions in the education sector and universities like Bath will face a recruitment and retention crisis as staff seek better financial security elsewhere.

There is more information about the attack on our pension scheme and our strike action at the UCU national website.

We are grateful for the support of our students and for this message from the National Union of Students (NUS).

If you are a student and would like to support your staff, please contact the Bath UCU Secretary. If you are a Postgraduate student, you can join UCU for free!