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UVW-SAW STANDS AGAINST “DIRECT ATTACK” ON TRANS RIGHTS

The UK government quietly launched a disingenuous consultation into freedoms on provision of toilets in municipal and private sector locations in October 2020.

 It proposes changing guidance, and even inserting new terms into the Building Regulations that would reduce freedom to provide “gender-neutral” desegregated toilet facilities, in favour of a “clear steer” towards facilities segregated by binary “sex” categories. 

A group of SAW members have been organising around this consultation and the dog-whistle politics underpinning it, exploring the connections between the rights of trans and gender non conforming people and the agency of architectural workers. They have co-written articles in Dezeen and the Architects Journal, as well as produced template letters for responding to the consultation and sharing the consultation with your co-workers

You can send in your opposition to these proposals, and supporting evidence to toilets@communities.gov.uk until 11.45pm 26th February 2021. Beyond this date, the government will proceed with a technical review – so there will be future opportunities for those with “technical knowledge of building regulations” as relevant stakeholders to input.  The group will continue to strategise around the issue: galvanising worker support, leveraging corporate allies, sharing resources for gender desegregated toilet design. If you’d like to help take action against the unacceptable violence against trans, gender non conforming and all other people who rely on desegregated toilet facilities, please get in touch with saw@uvwunion.org.uk.

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ARCHITECTURAL WORKERS ARE WALKING OUT OVER COVID-19 SAFETY CONCERNS

This morning, UVW-SAW members from two architectural offices exercised their legal right to individually refuse to return to their respective offices over COVID-19 safety concerns. They did so pursuant to Section 44 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 because of their belief of the very serious and imminent risk COVID-19 faces to their safety that they cannot reasonably be expected to avert. 

UVW-SAW demands that all architectural employers immediately cease compelling workers to travel and work in unsafe offices – directly contravening recent Government instruction to work from home in all reasonable circumstances.

On 5 January, the Government announced a third Nationwide Lockdown to minimise the ever increasing rapid spread of Covid-19 across the UK. RIBA has since issued guidance specifying that Chartered Practices have a duty “to provide their colleagues & employees with a fair, safe & equitable working environment”. There is increasing evidence that Covid-19 is being spread in inadequately ventilated indoor spaces such as in architectural offices where workers spend long periods of time in proximity to each other. The problem lies not only within office buildings themselves but workers’ necessity to travel across cities on public transport, increasing the threat to themselves and the general public. 

At this stage in the second wave of this deadly pandemic, where Covid-19 infection rates are rising at an unprecedented rate, we renew our demands for safety and responsibility within the architectural sector. Employers should immediately wholly embrace and facilitate working from home arrangements for all architectural workers. 

UVW-SAW is a grassroots trade union for architectural workers in the U.K. SAW takes action and fights against the negative impacts of architectural work on workers, communities, and the environment. You can join SAW as a member here.

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ARCHITECTURAL UNION CONDEMNS INADEQUATE RESPONSES TO COVID-19 OUTBREAK

The lack of care from some architectural employers for their staff’s health and wellbeing during the COVID-19 crisis is placing many architectural workers in unsafe and highly precarious positions. The architectural sector has been overwhelmingly slow to implement the necessary measures to ensure staff safety. 

United Voices of the World – Section of Architectural Workers (UVW-SAW) are demanding employers recognise the seriousness of this situation by: actively encouraging and facilitating flexible working, ensuring full salary (sick) pay for those not able to work because of the crisis, and by guaranteeing that no one is made redundant because of issues arising from COVID-19.  

The profession is dumbfounded and wholly unprepared to appropriately deal with this situation. It highlights so clearly the pre-existing vulnerabilities of workers in our profession” says Jake Arnfield, UVW-SAW member and coordinator. 

The stories we are hearing highlight how some employers neglect their duty of care to their staff in the sector compared to, for example, Higher Education where most universities have already moved all teaching to online platforms” says Kirti Durelle, UVW-SAW member and coordinator. 

Many practices are not sufficiently equipped to allow their staff to work from home, and most are still asking workers to continue to come into the office putting their own health and that of others at risk. The implementation of flexible working measures are frequently relying on employees’ own hardware, software, and domestic internet connection. Those without such are less eligible to work from home, and fear not being paid if they decide to self-isolate. Even if they recieve sick pay, many workers are only paid statutory sick pay which is not enough for them to afford to live. One union member, who wished to remain anonymous, said “If I fall ill, I have no safety net – I cannot pay rent and survive on statutory sick pay alone so I feel pressured to just keep working.” 

In light of these evolving circumstances, UVW-SAW is calling on employers to recognise the seriousness of the situation and act responsibility and in the best interests of the country by: 

1. Encouraging and facilitating flexible working arrangements: No worker should be pressured to go into the office if it poses a risk to their and others’ health. Flexible working arrangements need to be implemented immediately for all members of the workforce. In the event that this is not feasible, an employer should ask staff to remain at home and pay them their full salary.

2. Ensuring full salary sick pay for those not able to work because of COVID-19: If a worker has to self-isolate because they are experiencing Coronavirus symptoms, they should receive their full salary in sick pay for the full duration of the recommended self-isolation.

3. Guaranteeing no one is made redundant because of issues arising from COVID-19: No one should be dismissed or made redundant as a result of issues arising from the Coronavirus outbreak, particularly if they decide not to come to work without their employer’s express consent.

The union would like to hear from architectural workers in the sector about how their employers are responding to the COVID-19 crisis. Please fill in their survey here or email at: saw@uvwunion.org.uk

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FOR FIRST TIME EVER ARCHITECTURAL WORKERS UNIONISE ACROSS SECTOR!

For the first time ever, a group of architectural workers in London began unionising the whole sector. They laid out their demands for change in the profession, including, enforcing a Maximum Working Week and for all overtime to be optional, pre-agreed, and paid. 

Section of Architectural Workers (SAW), a group within United Voices of the World Union, intend to organise all those who work or are employed within the architectural sector, from cleaners, model makers, interior designers, architectural assistants, interns, administrative staff, BIM technicians, and architects. 

Following a “Workers’ Inquiry” process in 2018-19, SAW collectively decided to join the grassroots, member-led trade union United Voices of the World, which recently was described as part of the “new breed of trade unionism” and who are “reinventing the labour movement”. The Section of Architectural Workers are one of a new wave of sectors organising, including legal workers, culture and design workers and sex workers, who are joining thousands of, mostly migrant, cleaners and security workers. 

Their aims are clear:

– To create a supportive community of architectural workers to collectively take action. 

– To ensure everyone who works in architecture is properly compensated, fairly treated, and secure in their job. 

– To actively campaign to ensure architecture has a positive impact on wider-society: both socially and environmentally. 

UVW-SAW plan to counter what they describe as an “unsustainable toxic culture” of overwork, underday and discrimination, using historically-proven methods of unionising and effecting change from the bottom-up. Some other issues they are fighting are unpaid internships, a lack of care for mental wellbeing, harassment, and unethical practice.

Through unionising, architectural workers will come together to fight for a better profession, that works both for workers and for wider society. UVW-SAW encourage anyone in the sector to join as a member.