On Thursday March 11th, members of the executive and staff from CUPE 3903 met with the employer to discuss the COVID-19 response. While questions relating to pandemic response had been raised in other venues, this was the first time the employer invited the union to discuss these issues.
At this meeting we learned that the university had created an emergency management team in January. This team is responsible for monitoring the situation and providing information to the York Community. It is led by Samina Sami (Executive Director, Community Safety). When asked what would trigger the university to suspend classes, the employer said that it would take a directive from the Public Health Agency, and that the first priority is to complete the term without delay.
As such, we were surprised but pleased to see that York has suspended face-to-face classes and is moving to online delivery as of Monday. While this will present logistical difficulties, it is the right choice to protect students and staff and “flatten the curve” of the spread of COVID-19.
Nonetheless, this move raises many questions for our members, which were raised with the employer. These include:
- What provisions are in place for Nursing Clinical Course Directors who teach in hospitals? The union’s position is that contracts must be upheld and that CCDs should not be penalized as a result of quarantine.
- Whether part-time librarians and archivists (Unit 4) would be penalized as they are hourly employees. As above, the union’s position is that all members should be paid if their work is cancelled due to circumstances out of their control. We contacted the Libraries and Faculty Relations again this morning to emphasize that Unit 4 members need to be treated fairly and protected from exposure.
- The university should follow the University of Toronto’s lead and waive the requirement for sick notes. The communication from the Senate this morning specifies that sick notes are not required for students for deferred standing or petitions. Members of CUPE 3903 do not need sick notes.
- What would be done about the overwork required to move courses online.
The employer did not have clear answers regarding these issues yesterday; we see that some of these are currently evolving. The union made its position clear, and we hope that the employer will see that when it comes to pandemic planning, we need to work together to find reasonable solutions.
Also of note, we learned that York has contracted additional cleaning staff. While they have daily meetings with maintenance and vendors, they were unable to provide more information about how often cleaning of common services occurred. We also discussed the unclear communications from the employer and stressed the importance of clear directives.
Presently, the exact directives for putting courses online are unclear. If you are asked to complete tasks in a way that is unreasonable or violates your medical needs, please get in touch with the union and we will assist you.