To: All TIASA members.
From: Peter Joseph, Chief Executive.
Kia ora whanau,
We hope that you are coping well with the lockdown and that you and your bubble are safe and well. It has certainly been both challenging and interesting as we have navigated our way through the new norm.
The Prime Minister’s announcement earlier this week that the country will move to COVID Alert Level 3 at 11.59 p.m. on Tuesday 28th April has resulted in a fair amount of activity in the tertiary sector, even though the message is very clear – We are still at Alert Level 4 and that those who can work from home, should.
We have been inundated with queries and concerns from Branches and members: –
Operating under Alert Level 3 – What does this mean for the tertiary sector?
The Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) and the Ministry of Education have issued Tertiary Provider Bulletins (Updates) providing helpful guidance on operating at each Alert Level. These have been sent out to all Branches as we have received them.
https://www.tec.govt.nz/about-us/covid-19-coronavirus-information/#Staff This is the 20th April Bulletin which sets out the guidelines for TEO organisations on how to operate under the different Alert Levels.
The latest (23 April Bulletin is at https://www.tec.govt.nz/about-us/covid-19-coronavirus-information/#MoveL3 .
Earlier Bulletins can also be found here.
The key point is that under Level 3, all tertiary education should still be delivered remotely wherever possible. Two of the overarching principles are:
- For any on-site activities, physical distancing mustbe met at all times. (see separate item on physical distancing).
- Vulnerable people (or those caring for/living with vulnerable people) should not be asked to carry out any onsite activities.
If you have any concerns over what you are being asked to do, please let us know so that we can provide assistance.
Clarity on the physical (safe) distancing rules under Level 3
We wish to acknowledge and thank the Council of Trade Unions (CTU) for their excellent work with Government Ministers, Worksafe and MBIE on this important issue. The rules/guidelines for physical distancing, initially moved from 2 metres under Alert Level 4, to one metre under Alert Level 3. There was real concern expressed by all unions at Tuesday’s weekly CTU Affiliates’ Zoom meeting about the reduction, and refusal to accept a move to one metre in the workplace under Level 3, when better guidance, and practice, has been and is in place for essential services under Alert Level 4.
On Wednesday evening we received an urgent memo from CTU President Richard Wagstaff that progress had been made and Worksafe had amended the advice on their website.
Worksafe advice now reads:
How does physical distancing apply in workplaces?
In an uncontrolled environment, such as interactions between members of the public, a distance of 2 metres remains appropriate.
However, a workplace is a controlled environment and this means that PCBU’s are able to manage risks in other ways. They may for example institute engineering controls such as screens or personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks and gloves. With these types of measures, it is possible to manage the risk sufficiently to allow smaller safe distances such as 1 metre (or even smaller such as nurses caring for patients). Where effective controls cannot be implemented 2 metres may remain the safest distance for workplaces.
In all cases, obligations under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 to ensure the health and safety of workers and other people in the workplace so far as is reasonably practical will apply. Regardless of the distance adopted, PCBUs need to take steps to mitigate risks (including thinking about measures such as disinfecting surfaces and practices to ensure workers don’t come to work sick).
Worksafe has guidance on how PCBUs and workers can work together to manage risk during the Pandemic.
Keeping in Touch
The numbers of regular weekly (or more often) meetings are increasing as we seek to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all allied staff members.
- TIASA’s Apiha Whakahaere o Te Hononga (National Executive) continue to have weekly COVID Lockdown update meetings via Zoom every Wednesday. This week’s meeting covered many issues/queries being raised by members as well as receiving reports from them on developments at their TEO/Branch.
- We are also in regular contact with Branches and individual members
- TIASA National President Shelley Weir met via Zoom with TEC Chief Executive Tim Fowler, Deputy CE Gillian Dudgeon, MoE, the TEU national officers and a representative of NZUSA. These are important meetings that ensure TIASA has direct information and advance notice of key developments affecting our sector and our membership. They enable helpful discussion between all parties on about the best way forward, identify and resolve issues and needs, etc.
- There are good informative communications with HR/People and Culture and/or other senior management at several TEO’s. We especially want to acknowledge AUT for their consistent efforts to ensure TIASA has prompt, timely and clear information about all COVID-related matters at AUT including staff and student safety, support and wellbeing.
- The TEC and MoE provide TIASA with the Tertiary Providers Bulletins at the same time as these are forwarded to TEO’s.
- The weekly CTU Affiliates Zoom meetings continue to be extremely informative and valuable.
Taking Annual Leave – What Are Your Rights?
Annual leave has become an issue at some TEO’s with staff feeling pressured to not only use their current entitlement but also use their leave as it accrues. While we support members being able to access their annual leave entitlement and we encourage you to do so, it is important to note that:
- Generally, employees should be able to decide when to take their annual leave
- Your leave becomes an ‘entitlement’ on your anniversary date – you then begin to ‘accrue’ leave towards your next entitlement
- Your employer can seek to reach agreement with you as to when your annual leave (entitlement) will be taken. If agreement cannot be reached your employer can require you to take it by giving your 14 days’ notice.
- You cannot be required to take annual leave as it accrues.
If you have any questions regarding the above, please contact us at any of the following:
Stay safe and stay strong (and stay at home).
On behalf of Apiha Whakahaere o Te Hononga/National Executive
“Big enough to matter – small enough to care”