On Thursday, May 7th, CUPE 3903 held a townhall for members to get the latest information on how the union and the university are dealing with the COVID-19 crisis. Below is a short summary of the presentation by the Executive Committee, as well as the answers to some frequently asked questions from the townhall and elsewhere.
Townhall Presentation Summary
Presentations at the townhall addressed three broad issues: the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), the union’s discussions with the employer regarding a Letter of Understanding (LOU) concerning the needs of our members during the transition to remote delivery of courses, and how union business is being handled during the pandemic.
Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)
Presenters shared information about eligibility criteria for CERB. While the union is able to provide whatever information we do have, members are strongly encouraged to contact the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) or Service Canada directly if they have doubts about their eligibility. For the Canadian Emergency Student Benefit (CESB), we do not have any information at this time regarding how eligibility will work; we will share that information once it becomes available.
If members apply for the CERB, please be aware that you may be asked by Service Canada or the Canada Revenue Agency to provide documentation verifying your eligibility at a later date.
A separate CERB/CESB FAQ has been created based on the questions received at the Townhall.
Letter of Understanding (LOU)
The Executive Committee has been working on attempting to negotiate a Letter of Understanding (LOU) on the remote delivery of courses. We believe that the extra work that members are doing to put their courses online deserves to be remunerated fairly. Additionally, all members who had to purchase equipment in order to make the move to remote delivery should have those expenses reimbursed. Unit 2 members should not have to draw on their Professional Expense Reimbursement (PER) funds for these abnormal purchases. We are also asking that the university approve reasonable graduate extension requests due to the difficulties in completing graduate work during the pandemic. Negotiations continued for 12 hours on Wednesday May 13th and are ongoing with the aid of a mediator.
The Annual General Meeting (AGM), at which the budget is approved and the elections are launched, was meant to take place on March 16th, but had to be cancelled due to COVID-19. The Executive Committee is working on a way to hold an online AGM, although it may have to be much more streamlined than our usual AGMs. We are looking into remote meeting options as well as online voting options. Some concerns which are slowing down the process include accessibility and the ability to reach all members, as our membership lists as provided by the employer are notoriously spotty. We tentatively foresee being able to hold an online AGM and election in June. In the meantime, all spending has been frozen, except for obligations under our staff’s collective agreement and expenses necessary for the protection of our members and collective agreements (e.g. lawyer fees, mediation costs, etc.).
Below are some answers to questions from the townhall. Thank you to everyone who attended and shared their astute questions and concerns.
Will courses be online for F/W 2020-2021?
While no official announcement has been made, the York administration has said in several venues that large lectures will need to be delivered remotely in Fall 2020, with hopes of returning to in-person delivery in the Winter 2021 semester. There has been discussion of holding smaller courses in person in the Fall if feasible, using larger rooms in order to maintain social distancing.
With remote delivery, who decides whether my course is delivered synchronously or asynchronously?
As per our collective agreements, all members have the academic freedom to deliver their courses or tutorials as they see fit. Regarding synchronous or asynchronous course delivery, we suggest that members be aware of any guidelines from their faculties or departments, and prepare their courses in ways that respect academic integrity and accommodate students who might not be able to attend at regular course times. The extra work involved here is exactly why we are seeking extra compensation for our members for the remote delivery of courses.
My insurance runs out at the end of September and I don’t foresee being able to get treatments/medications/etc. during the summer. Can my health insurance coverage be extended due to the pandemic?
At this time, there is no extension of coverage past the usual 5 months after the end of your last contract (e.g. if your last contract finished in May, you would have coverage until September 30th). Several members have approached us with this problem and we are looking for solutions, and have raised this with the university.
What’s happening with bargaining?
The collective agreements for Units 1, 2, and 3 expire on August 31, 2020. In normal circumstances we would ideally be approving the proposal package by now; however, the Bargaining Team also needs to be elected, which was not able to occur because the AGM was cancelled. Once the Bargaining Team is elected, we will need to seriously discuss our capacity to bargain in these conditions as a union. The Executive Committee expects to hold a townhall on bargaining once the team is elected. In the meantime, the Executive Committee is working on a first round of bargaining surveys.
How do I get my ROE?
Your Record of Employment (ROE) is a document that members need in order to apply for Employment Insurance (EI). At the end of your contract, York automatically sends your ROE to Service Canada. To access your ROE from York, you will need to create a MyServiceCanada account, even if you are not applying for EI benefits. Please see the “New User” section at the following link to get started (it’s a straightforward process): https://www.canada.ca/en/employment-social-development/services/my-account.html