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University support staff left carrying the can for chaotic start of term, says UNISON

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University support staff are calling for managers and ministers to step in to end the Covid campus chaos that’s left them dealing with weeks of sometimes violent disruption, says UNISON (@unisontheunion) today (Tuesday).

Workers are angry at being left to manage the fallout, threats and abuse from frustrated students​ in isolation, with no extra support or recognition, the union says. 

Security officers at one university report regularly risking their own safety to break up rowdy groups of students angry at lockdown restrictions, says UNISON.

At the same university, staff had to fight their way through hundreds of students – including Covid-positive cases – heading for fire exits as alarms were intentionally set off in accommodation blocks, the union says. 

To keep students safe and fed, cleaners and catering staff are working extra hours to meet ​the huge increase in demand. Kitchens, corridors and communal areas are regularly deep cleaned, while some catering workers are clocking up 16-hour shifts to make and deliver three meals a day to thousands of students in their rooms, adds UNISON.

UNISON senior national ​education officer Ruth Levin said:

“Support staff have been caught in the crossfire in a totally avoidable situation. 

“​Local or mobile testing units ​are needed on every campus and the ​government has got to get to grips with the test-and-trace system.

“If the ​testing system was working properly, healthy students wouldn’t be locked down and staff wouldn’t have to deal with violence, a​buse and ​huge increase​s ​in workloads, with little extra support​ from university managers.

“Staff have been working flat out to keep universities going and​, considering the pressures they’re under, they’re doing a remarkable job. 

“​But without proper funding for universities​, many ​are at risk of losing their jobs. University managers and government ministers need to recognise that, take responsibility and end the campus crisis.”

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