Please read the following update on the upcoming COVID Table Meeting by Matt Lomas, Chief Steward (Unit 1) and Co-Chair, COVID table. For any further points of clarification, feel free to contact firstname.lastname@example.org :
The CUPE 3903 Executive Committee has decided that we will not attend the final COVID Table meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, 26 April 2022. We made this difficult decision as the result of months of these meetings yielding no results, and out of disappointment that the employer has not been transparent with us regarding their COVID response plans. These meetings were agreed to in bargaining, yet we do not feel the employer ever took them seriously.
The purpose of these meetings was for the employer and the union to share information with regards to a shared goal: COVID safety on campus. And yet, we could not rely on the information we received during these COVID Table meetings. More than once, we were given information that was either incorrect or was later changed without our input. Most egregiously, it was at the COVID Table that the union was told that members impacted by the employer’s vaccine mandate would be put on unpaid leave; later, the employer went back on its word and terminated the contracts of some of these members, in an inconsistent and often arbitrary way. We were relying on the information we were given to formulate our position on the application of the vaccine mandate, and receiving incorrect information in this situation was a serious breach of the good faith that needs to exist between unions and employers.
At the most recent COVID Table meetings, York has consistently refused to take any concrete stance on what policies will or won’t continue into the Spring/Summer and Fall 2022 academic terms. Responsibility for decision-making has continuously been deferred to the municipal and provincial governments or to the Council of Ontario Universities. The York administration has consistently refused to take responsibility for the health and safety of the York community. Without York acknowledging and using their power to make sound policy decisions, it is impossible to properly discuss what steps need to be taken to keep people safe.
In addition to refusing to declare policy positions at these meetings, the employer’s representatives have consistently been unable to answer simple and direct questions. For example, over the last several months, CUPE 3903 has been trying to access ventilation data for Keele and Glendon campuses. At first, York said there was no ventilation data; later, they said they had not received proper paperwork from the union; then, they said we couldn’t have what ventilation information existed because we wouldn’t understand it. To this day, we have not received any concrete information about the state of ventilation on campus. The employer relied on the audit for which they have contracted an outside expert, failing to acknowledge that this audit is late, and the audit is required as a result of a grievance settlement with the York University Faculty Association (details of this settlement can be found here, in Article 19).
Due to York’s COVID measures, many CUPE 3903 members required workplace accommodations. However, the process to get these accommodations was overly difficult and many members’ accommodations were denied or decisions were not made in a timely manner. When we attempted to talk about COVID-19 related workplace accommodations, we were rebuffed at every turn. In order for these COVID Table meetings to achieve their intended purpose, they needed to rely on clear communication and good faith engagement. It has become clear to CUPE 3903 that if one side is coming to the table unwilling to provide full transparency, it is a waste of time and resources to engage in these meetings.
Right now, the COVID-19 pandemic is entering a new wave and shows no sign of abating. What the York community needs from the administration is a proactive stance that provides clear, useful information to all students, instructors, and staff. York’s pandemic response has been lacking throughout the entirety of the pandemic, and it is disappointing to see such a clear refusal to work with the union on what should have been a clear shared goal. We are informing you about our refusal to participate in the meeting on 26 April. This refusal to participate is not a withdrawal from our responsibility to help ensure safety on campus, but rather an expression of our dissatisfaction with the nature of the COVID table meetings thus far and because we feel our efforts would be better spent working directly on behalf of our members.
Matthew Lomas (Chief Steward Unit 1; COVID Table Co-Chair)
CUPE 3903 Executive Committee