Wor Blog

Business as usual?

Working during a pandemic is hard, but necessary. Caring for loved ones and your children at home is hard but necessary too. But everything is harder for everyone when your employer says it is ‘business as usual’ or ‘this is not a crisis situation’, and expects individuals to come up with their own ways to solve problems without sharing solutions. Some people are OK, and feel supported, and it is helpful when people are told no-one will be ‘disadvantaged’. But many more colleagues already feel they are disadvantaged, because this is not ‘business as usual’ and it is a crisis. Those who are isolated, let down, and stressed, say this is what life is like when work is like this:

“Home schooling is challenging enough, but trying to balance this with teaching and programme management during the transition to online delivery has been highly stressful. In an effort to fulfil all roles, I am left feeling that nothing is done to the best of my ability, which creates a general feeling of anxiety.”

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Return to on-site teaching

I feel compelled to write to you personally to share my experience of the first wave of COVID, working for a HE institution.  I am a UCU member and Senior Lecturer at Northumbria University.  I am writing  in response to the current clamour to return to on-site teaching, in the hope that sharing this experience might help to bring home the gravity of what a second wave might cause and aggravate.  The minimal discussions that my subject-group have been able to have over the summer period, have demonstrated to me that many of my colleagues have not had first-hand experience of the reality of what a serious contraction of this illness can cause.  Because I, unfortunately, have had that experience, I thought that my experiences might be of some interest to other HE professionals weighing up the risks of their face-to-face teaching responsibilities.

UCU Maternity Group blog post

I'm writing this to the sound of thumps and jumps (and shouts to "move over!") as my younger two children start their day with Joe Wicks. I've long given up trying to join in having realised that pandemics are probably NOT the time to 'get fit', 'learn to play the guitar properly', FINALLY clear out the attic etc. Basic survival; that's ok. This also means that I don't even sit in the same room as I've found that saying 'keep your body upright, don't lean too far" etc. is not conducive, and young bodies are super supple/unlikely to strain, aren't they? (I refuse to google how true this is for my own state of mind but let's just agree that they are fine, and they have been warned not to break anything – bones and/or the TV, at least!).

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My Privilege, Your Stories, Our Fight

Since becoming Northumbria UCU Branch Chair, I have spent a lot of time saying to people, honestly and humbly, what a privilege it is to have been elected. I'm fired up about helping in the fight for fairness, decency, and dignity at work and in the wider world. It is a fight that many, many others, past and present, have made their own, and it is at the core of the trade union movement. But what a fight it is.

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