The Open University branch of the University and College Union
Our UCU rep for Acadenmic Services (David Conway) has sent another issue of the Helping Hands newsletter.
As we are now well into the festive season, I hope you all are looking forward to some rest. I think we all need it after a testing year, to say the least!
The holiday season, aside from how much you decide to celebrate it, gives us each a time to reflect. I wanted us to think about how the pandemic has affected everyone in the HE sector and consider ways we can support them.
As I am sure many of you have all seen in the media, many staff at other universities have returned to face-to-face teaching, which in some cases has put staff and students at risk. There are also cases of planned redundancies at several institutions. Whilst we are lucky at the OU and it is a voluntary choice to work on site in most cases, student numbers are up and OU management overall is supportive, I have heard feedback from staff in Academic Services that they feel a pressure of presentism and have returned to site sooner than they would have liked. If you have concerns, do contact the UCU office for help: firstname.lastname@example.org. A paradox of this is also that some OU staff are feeling increasingly isolated working from home, which is putting pressure on their mental health. Staff across the OU are also commenting on how workload is a greater issue than ever before due to our new ways of working.
Some ways in which you can help other UCU branches is by attending solidary events organised by the UCU Solidarity movement: https://www.ucusolidaritymovement.org. Other branches really appreciate our support, so I urge you to participate in any activities that they organise if possible. Let’s try and help others in the HE sector across the UK and raise awareness of the difficulties and dangers they face.
Ways in which you can help others at the OU are:
sharing this email with anyone who is interested,
changing your Microsoft Teams background to one of the UCU themed photos if you feel comfortable doing so,
and sharing with me, or your local Union rep, news about what is happening in your unit.
Building a stronger union helps the OU to improve further and protects all staff.
Another way in which you can support colleagues is by taking time out of your day, if possible, to talk to them. Are there any members of your team who are quieter than normal? Have you noticed any changes in behaviour? Although it may not be your job to look deeper into reasons and meaning, a quick call to chat about work and other things unrelated may help them.
I hope you have an enjoyable and restful holiday which brings festive cheer.
UCU Rep for Academic Services
New JOIN UCU video and Recruitment materials
Over 130,000 education workers are now members of UCU: the largest membership the union has seen since formation. In these uncertain times the power of belonging to a union is more critical than ever. The more college, university, adult and prison education staff that join UCU, the stronger we are to protect our members at work, defend jobs and campaign for investment in education.
UCU membership now exceeds 130,000 – and a brand-new set of materials for online or offline recruitment campaigns is now available. Click below to view and download the new suite of recruitment materials, including a range of shareable social media graphics, a downloadable pdf leaflet, and a short video, ready to share via YouTube, Facebook or Twitter. https://ucu.org.uk/covid19-branches
Join UCU new video: https://youtu.be/LSPvHkjAqRs