The University and College Union (UCU) branch at Northumbria University has become the first union branch in the UK to win a ballot over health and safety relating to COVID-19 after staff voted to strike yesterday (Wednesday).In response to the ballot, in a statement on Tuesday (24 November), the employer has already agreed to limit the amount of in-person teaching that takes place on campus.
UCU said this could be the start of a wave of local industrial ballot successes on health and safety if employers continue to fail to prioritise the concerns of staff.
66.5% of members voted yes to taking strike action on a 67.3% turnout, with 89.9% of members voting yes to taking action short of a strike.
UCU General Secretary Jo Grady said: ‘This is a massive step forward in our struggle to keep campuses safe for staff and students. Staff at Northumbria have overwhelmingly voted yes to both industrial action and action short of a strike.
"This shows how seriously our members take the safety of their students and colleagues, UCU would like to thank our members and reps for their support.
"We regret that it took a ballot for industrial action for Northumbria to take this matter seriously. If the employer had listened to our concerns from the start then we could have avoided this escalation.
"We welcome the statement sent by university management on Tuesday 24th to move to only limited teaching on campus and we hope that this sensible safety-first approach continues into next term.’
In response, a spokesperson from Northumbria University said:
“We have been advised of the recent ballot result by the Northumbria branch of the University and College Union (UCU). Discussions between the University and UCU have continued during the ballot period and at this stage it is not clear whether any action will be taken so it is not possible to comment in detail.”