Spotlight on equalities: Black Lives Matter, COVID-19, FTCs
This post aims to provide a summary and an update on current equalities issues and areas of work as well as providing information about upcoming events.
Black Lives Matter
The brutal murder of George Floyd on 25 May in Minneapolis has been a catalyst for continued calls for racism and systematic inequalities to be addressed. This is something that we feel strongly about across Brighton UCU branches and we demonstrate this strength of feeling by ‘doing’. Brighton UCU officers have been involved in local events such as this weekend’s Black Lives Matter protest on Madeira Drive, we have also been involved in national webinars, as well as university-based events. We continue to highlight issues pertaining to racism, discussion of race and management of equalities issues at the university. Our affiliation with anti-racism group ‘Stand Up To Racism‘ has and continues to be an important part of our work. Stand Up To Racism also posted a report on the protest on 13/06 in Brighton on Facebook and will be #TakingTheKnee every Wednesday at 6pm.
Part of ‘doing’ is also acknowledging that more has to be done and this past week we met to discuss how we can push harder to see meaningful change. It is also clear to us that Four Fights is more important that ever to address pay inequality. Furthermore there is the ongoing issue with the lack of Black and minority ethnic representation among academic staff as well as as senior management levels. Part of our approach to continuing our fight is listening to members and we plan to hold an open meeting within the next two weeks to ensure that we have the correct priorities going forward. We will be contact via the branch email lists with further details.
The disproportionate effects of COVID-19
Existing inequalities have been exacerbated as a result of COVID-19 and these effects have been widely publicised and therefore hard to dispute. However, we feel that more could be done by University of Brighton to take the consequences of these issues onboard and present solutions or at the very least attempt to redress imbalances.
We are therefore making the following points to the University Executive Board:
- We would like to see acknowledgement of the disproportionate effect of lockdown on female academics, Black and minority ethnic academics, and academic staff with disabilities. This has the potential for long term career impact and as a result of shielding some staff have had to take on caring responsibilities which will affect working patterns. There need to be reassurances that staff who are affected by these issues will not encounter conscious or unconscious barriers to their career progression.
- We still have not been party to drafts of any equalities impact analyses (EIA). This issue has now been highlighted several times in different meetings. There should have been an EIA for lockdown, there needs to be an EIA for transition from lockdown to phased return. A great deal of resource should be dedicated to understanding the disproportionate impact of these issues and we are yet to see any evidence of this work having been done.
- On this we have requested that Black and minority ethnic staff be given priority for risk assessments prior to return to work and that the process be adjusted to ensure that all risk factors are considered and documented. This is based on the advice provided by BAMEed.
- We also have not seen any plans pertaining to sensitive self-declaration of the need to continue shielding for health reasons after the conclusion of lockdown. This particularly important for staff with long term health conditions, whose confidentiality must be respected.
- Online bullying issues have been experienced by staff since the move to online teaching and learning. This disproportionately affects Women, Black and minority ethnic, as well as Disabled academics. We would like there to be a stronger line on this, including a clearer code of conduct to support staff and reporting procedures.
For more updates of the recent work of officers/reps in relation to COVID-19 please check out recent post: Covid-19 health and safety.
There is a national meeting for Disabled UCU members on the 16th of June from 3pm-4pm
If you are disabled member and would like to attend please contact the Brighton UCU Equalities Officer. This is a safe space to ask questions and raise any concerns about your experiences.
Staff on Fixed Term Contracts (FTC)
We have conducted independent research on equalities issues in relation to fixed term contract academic staff who may not have their contracts renewed. We have also engaged in a social media, campaign and we are supporting the #CoronaContract campaign. The #CoronaContract campaign is about permanent colleagues standing up for those on fixed term contracts, this includes not absorbing the work of those who may already have been dismissed (more details here). You can also show your individual support by signing the Corona Contract here.
Join us at the UCU Online Solidarity Rally on Tuesday 16th of June from 11am-1pm
Sign-up for the rally here. We need as many branch members to attend as possible. This event is co-organised by SOAS, University of Liverpool, Imperial College London, University of Roehampton UCU branches. Those of you who attended our recent meeting may recall our speaker from Roehampton and it would be great to show our support.
Based on our research there are potentially issues related to Public Sector Equality Duty (Public Sector Equality Duty contained in section 149 of the Equality Act 2010) where equalities issues may not have been considered. We have not for example seen an equalities impact assessment related to these planned redundancies, this includes assessment of equalities impact for those staff who remain and are called on to take on additional work.
Progress on equalities issues since June 2019
Back in June of 2019 we wrote a post about equalities issues and what we hoped to achieve. Our efforts in fighting two rounds of strike action followed by the coronavirus pandemic since then have meant we have not made as much progress as we had hoped. Despite these trying circumstances, we continue to make positive changes for our members and a progress update of some key issues is given below.
University Carer’s Policy
The policy was due to be reviewed and we put forward recommendations to increase paid leave for carers and to make an allowance for staff who are carers to attend medical appointments with the person for whom they care. A report was due at the last Joint Negotiating Committee (JNC), but has been delayed and therefore moved to the November meeting. Due to this delay, the university has not yet demonstrated that the policy’s provisions adequately help staff who are carers.
A working group to look at issues of sexual harassment has been formed at the university. This was reported back at the November 2019 Equality and Diversity committee. Our officer asked for details of th membership of this working group, these details were not provided and also asked for UCU representation. We still await an invite to a meeting of this group.
Immediately prior to the COVID-19 crisis work was done to collate research and testimonials on this issue. Unfortunately progress on this has temporarily been halted due to addressing immediate issues related to COVID-19.
Domestic Violence and Emotional Abuse
This was noted as area where a policy could be introduced within an Equality and Diversity Committee meeting, but no further progress has been made.
International LGBTQ+ Pride month
We would like to wish all of our LGBTQ+ members and their families a powerful International Pride month. As we cannot meet in person, we highlight an online film screening of Patient No More (Dir. Diana Fraser) which was screened as part of our November Teach Out schedule for the first time in the UK. If you missed the opportunity to see this film the following screening is available.
“Queer women are not statistically “safe,” but there are medical spaces that have been crafted so that they can be treated with the same dignity as any other patient. Patient No More is a feature documentary about the barriers LGBTQ+ women navigate across health care systems and how the never-ending hunt for affirming care affects their lives.
- Due to the time difference we recommend accessing the screening at the TPT site on Tuesday, 30 June at 10am BST (4pm CST) or again on Sunday 19th July at 2pm BST (8am CST).