Letter of Understanding on COVID 19 Related Issues

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As of May 21st, we have a Letter of Understanding (LOU) on COVID 19 Related Issues with York. The LOU will provide much needed financial support to many of our members. This agreement is the first of its kind in the sector and is the outcome of intense negotiations with York.

In brief, York has committed to $140 000 in support of members facing financial hardships, up to $50 000 in reimbursement of expenses and some monies for members attending  instructional design training. We will be sending members additional information on how to apply for reimbursement of expenses and other procedures resulting from the LOU soon.

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Did the Switch to Remote Delivery Leave You Feeling Overworked?

Many members have said the emergency switch to remote delivery significantly increased their workload. We want to check in with members to get an extent of the issue.

If you had courses that were moved to a remote delivery format in mid-March due to COVID-19 and you believe you worked beyond what would have been required if you had completed the course in a face-to-face format, please fill out our Winter semester workload information form. 

At this moment we are only collecting information about work done to complete courses that were running when the mid-March switch to remote delivery occurred. We may collect  information about the summer semesters in the future.

CGEU Constitutional Convention

The Coalition of Graduate Employee Unions Constitutional Convention will be held online the weekend of June 6-7. Registration is open here.

Delegates are asked to register by May 31. However, if you are not able to register by that date you can contact the CGEU by emailing cgeu.csee@gmail.com.

More information about the purpose of the Constitutional Convention is available here. More information on the Meeting is available here (ici) with updates specific to the online adaptation here.

CGEU unions are also sharing their impact, bargaining strategies, and contract wins during COVID-19. Check out these resources by and for graduate employee unions here.

PER (Unit 2) Purchases During Campus Shut-Down

Unit 2 members with PER funds can no longer use on-campus retailers such as Data Integrity. York has sent us the following message about incurring professional expenses:

Faculty and staff continue to be encouraged to use of vendors of record (VOR) through University procurement methods such as Smartbuy (with home delivery, if required).  Where VORs are unable to meet the needs of the community (either in terms of equipment needs, delivery method, or delivery timeline), community members may purchase from non-vendors of record.  The Pcard is the preferred method of payment, however, if the community member does not have a Pcard, they can pay for it personally and submit a claim for reimbursement.  Claims where purchases exceed $1500 will not be sent back, however community members must ensure they follow the procurement rules as it relates to cumulative purchases with a single vendor, including the use of VORS  (i.e. for purchases up to  $10,000).

Instructions for making Smartbuy purchases while working remotely.

Course Completion Plans: Employer Responds to Concerns

Many of our members have expressed frustration and concern over the requirement for submission of a Course Completion Plan, especially with the unreasonable and arbitrarily imposed deadline of March 18th.

The Executive wrote to Dan Bradshaw (Assistant Vice President, Labour Relations) asking for clarification and assurances that there would be no surveillance and no discipline for those who struggle to meet arbitrary deadlines.

Bradshaw has now (March 17, 2020) replied and members can find his reply below. Members should especially note the commitment that those struggling to meet the March 18th deadline should not expect “some form of “negative” response from the employer”.

We recognize that extenuating circumstances are challenging to everyone and I take your point that this will be more challenging with Contract Faculty who have a higher number of courses to teach.

Further to that, we really want to thank our Contract Faculty staff for their diligence in working towards this transition. From what I am hearing, while there are undoubtedly some “bumps” out there, things are progressing well.

Regarding course completion plans, I want to begin by saying that the main purpose of the  March 13 request for course completion plans by March 18 is to identify where, for any number of reasons, there are issues and challenges with respect to making the transition to moving away from face to face delivery.  Any subsequent messaging from the Provost or others was intended to clarify this point and further to highlight that instructors could be flexible in the alternate means by which they would be able to achieve the timely completion of their course while maintaining academic integrity.

Regarding the content of the course completion plan, I think it might be helpful to reference Provost Phillips campus communication on March 13 – https://coronavirus.info.yorku.ca/2020/03/community-update-10-course-completion-plan/

And the subsequent communication from yesterday for additional clarification and detail on instructor autonomy and flexibility: https://coronavirus.info.yorku.ca/2020/03/community-update-15-covid-19-course-completion-information/

In particular, in her March 13 communication the Provost noted that:
We are asking all instructors to develop plans to complete their courses under these unique conditions by Wednesday March 18th, and to submit these plans to their Department/School/Faculty. Your course completion plan should address the following:

How you plan to make course materials available to students online and conduct class activities remotely

Any changes you are making to your evaluation scheme (see information on Evaluation and Exams below)

Any course components or evaluations that cannot be replaced or delivered in alternate ways, so your Department or Faculty can work with you to develop remediation plans.

It is not a question of the Dean’s Office approving the plans, rather an exercise in data collection to determine where there are issues and additional action is required.

Anything you can do to assist us in encouraging that these plans be submitted by March 18, for the purposes identified above and with the content identified by the Provost and noted above, would be greatly appreciated. Where instructors are struggling with parts of their plan, this would be regarded as a circumstance where additional resources may need to be deployed to assist, rather than circumstances requiring some form of “negative” response from the employer. We are hopeful that timely planning will assist as many students and instructors with clarity on activities going forward.

Thanks for reaching out on this. Let me know if you want to discuss further.

Dan Bradshaw
Assistant Vice-President, Labour Relations

 

Know Your Rights: COVID-19 Disruption

We understand members have many questions regarding York’s response to COVID-19 and their rights and obligations as employees. York does not have clear answers for many of our members’ questions and the situation is evolving rapidly. We wanted to remind members of some of their rights as workers.

Workplace Health and Safety

COVID-19 is a workplace health and safety issue. Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, York has a proactive responsibility to ensure a safe work environment and that includes safety from infectious disease. York’s recent cancellation of in-person classes addresses some of this responsibility. 

Some of our members may still be required to work on campus because of the nature of their work. If you are concerned about your risk of exposure, especially if you are in a high risk group, please see the sections below on sick days, leaves and accommodations, and contact a union representative if you need support. 

If a case of COVID-19 appears at York and York does not deal with prescribed safety measures (PPE, separation, etc), or if York is already aware of a case and forces members to work in an area with a person known to be infected, then members would have the right to refuse unsafe work. Unfortunately, you can’t refuse based on the possibility of a case occurring. If you need to refuse unsafe work please contact the union immediately so we support you. 

Exposure to COVID-19 in the Workplace

There is the  possibility that members were exposed to COVID-19 in the workplace before the cancellation of classes, and that members who must still come to campus will be exposed in the workplace. 

Medical service providers, and some others are required to report COVID-19 under Ontario’s public health legislation. It is not clear if York would be notified immediately if a student or other community member tests positive. We would consider it a violation of York’s duty to provide a safe work environment if York failed to alert our members to a potential COVID exposure once they were made aware.  

If you have been contacted by a public health authority or York about a potential exposure while on the job please contact the union executive or staff immediately. We will be available to provide you with advice and support. Workplace exposure to COVID may be considered a workplace injury and be reportable to WSIB.

Contracts – Pay, Overwork and Contract End Dates

Unit 1s (other than ticketed course directorships) can refuse work above their original contract hours and if work is performed it must be compensated. If you have been asked to do work that would put you over your assigned hours you should let your Course Director/Supervisor know that you will go over hours. We recommend you not perform the work until a written guarantee of additional payment is made. You cannot be disciplined for refusing the over-work. You may want to contact an Executive or Staff member for support. 

Many of our members do not have an assigned number of hours. This makes the argument of “over-work” more difficult. It is our contention that York cannot ask for a significant increase in workload from our members without appropriate compensation. If you feel you’ve been asked to perform work that would significantly increase your workload please contact a union representative. 

York clarified on March 16th that Unit 1 and 2 members with contract end dates of April 30th would be paid out in full, as normal. They also confirmed that any work after April 30th would be compensated. 

Members should track all of their hours and especially keep track of all hours worked after April 30, 2020. The Union will, if necessary, file grievances on behalf of its members.

Sick days

You are entitled to sick days even if you are working remotely. You are not expected to complete any work, including grading or online tutorials/lectures when sick. 

York has said they will not require sick notes for absences under 15 days. York has historically not asked for documentation when members have taken sick days and this is in-line with past practices. Members should not hesitate to take a sick day if they are feeling unwell for any reason. 

Leaves

Members are entitled to medical and other paid leaves. Medical leave, and some others, require documentation. Please see our Leaves page for more information. An Exec or Staff member can help you with this process. Members should not feel forced to take a leave when their needs can be met through the use of sick days or the accommodations process. 

Accommodations

You can find more information about workplace accommodations on our Equity page. Members with disabilities and/or child or elder care responsibilities may be able to access the workplace accommodations process. Members who already have a workplace accommodation plan may find it needs updating to account for the change in course expectations. We recommend having union representation throughout this process. 

If You are Ill or Have Been Exposed to COVID-19

Keeping with their duty to provide a safe workplace, York may put measures into place to screen workers for infection. Human rights legislation places restrictions on an employer’s ability to require medical examinations or health testing but some non-invasive tests or screening provisions may be acceptable. At the moment we are not aware of York planning to screen workers, if you have been asked to take a medical test by the employer please contact the union. 

York has noted that all ill workers are expected to stay home and follow government advice regarding self isolation. If you have tested positive for COVID, York has the right to refuse you access to the workplace. Health authorities are recommending removal until you are free of the virus. All employees who may have been exposed to an infected individual should also be removed from the workplace for at least a 14-day period. 

If you have been told by York that you cannot access campus due to infection or exposure and are concerned about your remaining contract/pay please contact a union representative. 

Members should not be considering EI if told to quarantine unless you have already exhausted the 6 weeks of paid sick leave. If you access leaves for quarantine you would not be required to complete work to finish your contract- when you’re on sick leave you are not required to “make up” the time.