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Health and safety concerns 'a nuisance' says University of Sheffield as pensions row takes dangerous turn

21 October 2011 | last updated: 8 July 2019

The University of Sheffield was under fire today for describing life-saving health and safety regulations as a 'nuisance'*.

UCU has told its members to be extra vigilant and 'to undertake no duties in breach of health and safety policies' including refusing to use equipment that has not been safety-checked.

The extraordinary reaction from the university came in a 'macho' briefing for managers in response to the union's dispute with the university over pension changes. UCU said that employers had misread the depth of feeling over pensions and now seemed to be taking this out on staff.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'I find it extraordinary, even during a dispute, that an employer should describe health and safety as a nuisance. We will be writing to the Health and Safety Executive and asking them to take the matter up.
 
'This kind of macho strategy is all too typical and I urge the university to withdraw its briefing. Rather than down playing health and safety the university should be joining with us to get the national negotiations back on track so we can resolve this dispute as swiftly as possible.'

The union began a campaign of 'working to contract' on Monday 10 October in a dispute that centres around imposed changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS) pension scheme - the second largest private scheme in the UK. Scheme members are furious about changes imposed at the start of the month that will see them pay more to work longer with less protection should they lose their job.
 
Full details on the dispute, what working to contract means, the 67 universities affected and how the action may develop can be found at: USS pension dispute briefing
 
* The University of Sheffield's guidance:

What other action is UCU planning?

UCU has encouraged its members to participate in "nuisance" activities across campus in addition to working to contract. The University does not condone such activities and will be working to ensure that students are not affected by any action which may be taken and that normal University business continues as normal. Members of staff are encouraged to consider the implications of participating in such "nuisance" activities both in terms of damaging the reputation and potential future success of the University, and in relation to areas such as Health and Safety regulations.

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