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Table of Contents

Current as of: September 10, 2020

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CUPE 3902 has created this page to act as a resource to all members regarding both the University and Union’s response to the continuing COVID-19 public health concern. We remind all members that your Union remains available to assist you with any concerns you may have. We remain available by telephone (416-593-7057) and email (NOTE: sending an email to this account will not result in a grievance being filed) to answer any questions or concerns you may have.

We have re-arranged this page to better condense the information as its content continues to grow. All updates from June 1, 2020 and onward will be listed below according to month.

OVERVIEW OF SITUATION

Since March 13, all in-person classes at the University of Toronto and the affiliated colleges have been cancelled; teaching and instruction has been continuing remotely where possible. As of March 17, all campus buildings, including libraries, have been closed except to those with a personal fob or key. And as of March 20, all laboratories have been closed except for those approved to remain open for essential COVID-19 research or other critical, time-sensitive projects; all other researchers are expected to continue their work remotely to the extent possible.

We expect these disruptions to continue through the remainder of the Summer, and quite possibility into the Fall and even Winter 2021. For many CUPE 3902 members, this situation is entailing a great deal of additional work, financial hardship, uncertainty, stress, and emotional labour, all of which is extremely taxing. Some of us have had to prepare our courses for remote delivery at very short notice; some of us have lost access to work we were anticipating in the summer months; and some of us have had our research and career goals severely set back.

Throughout this time, your Union has been working hard to ensure that your rights are respected and that the negative impact of the pandemic on your working conditions is mitigated as much as possible. You can reach our friendly Staff Representatives by calling our office at (416) 593-7057 or by emailing us. Your departmental stewards are also resources; if you don’t know who your stewards are, you can find out by logging into the member portal. Please also continue to check this dedicated website page for updates as things unfold.

See below for additional information for all members, as well as specific information for each bargaining unit position (Course Instructors, Teaching Assistants, Postdoctoral Fellows, etc.).

INFORMATION FOR ALL MEMBERS

Your department of work ought to be providing you with the support you need to do your job well and without excessive overwork or personal hardship.

  • The resources you are able to access will depend on your department, the nature of your work, and your individual needs. These resources may include, but are not necessarily limited to, some or all of the following: additional hours of pay; paid training on online delivery; additional TA support for instructors; more flexible timelines and policies; IT support; and reimbursements for technological and/or home office expenses.
  • Some members are fortunate to work in departments that have been providing a good deal of additional support. Other members have been provided with very little to mitigate the additional challenges and work that are entailed by the current situation. Your Union is continuing to push for a more consistent approach that protects all members from excessive personal sacrifice or hardship.
  • If you have made reasonable requests to your department and these requests have been denied, please contact the union. We may be able to assist you in getting the support you need, and hearing stories like yours will put us in a stronger position to advocate for all of our members.

Complete a Self-Declaration Form if you have current employment at the University but your ability to work is affected by COVID-19.

  • The Self-Declaration Form has four categories: (1) Sick leave; (2) Self-isolation; (3) Immunocompromised; and (4) Caregiver Responsibilities. You are advised to complete the form if you are unable to work for any of these four reasons. No doctor’s note or other verification is required.
  • You must also contact your supervisor (e.g. your course instructor, department head, or principal investigator) to let them know that you are unable to work and that you have completed the form. It is possible that your supervisor will propose an accommodation to enable to you to complete your work; if you think that accommodation is unsuitable, contact the union.
  • Leave for illnesses other than COVID-19 or for other reasons must go through the regular processes outlined in our Collective Agreements

Pay continuity is not guaranteed to members who have been unable to secure summer work; it isguaranteed to members who have summer work.

  • From March 13 to April 30, the University guaranteed no loss of pay for members who lost work because of the COVID-19 disruptions. This included some work that members were anticipating but which became redundant, such as Chief Presiding Officer and Invigilator hours.
  • For the summer months, members who have not secured anticipated work will not be entitled to pay in lieu of the work lost.
  • If you have secured summer work but your ability to work is impaired for a COVID-19-related reason, you are protected against loss of pay. Please complete the Self-Declaration Form described above.
  • If you were offered summer work that was later cancelled, or if your situation is unusual, please get in touch with us as soon as possible, as we may be able to secure some additional compensation for you.
  • Postdoctoral Fellows, you continue to be protected by your Collective Agreement, which includes the right to three months’ notice (or pay in lieu of notice) before any early termination of a contract.
  • You may be entitled to Government or University financial benefits, even if you did not have access to these benefits previously. See below for more information.

Accommodations should be provided wherever reasonable. 

  • While almost all of us are now working from home, you may require other individualized accommodations.
  • Your department is your first point of contact for securing any workplace accommodations you may need. If you encounter pushback from your department, contact your departmental steward or the CUPE 3902 office.

Your work is your work, and faculty shouldn’t be taking it on. 

  • The University of Toronto Faculty Association assures us that they will oppose any work being taken away from our members. 

Please be kind to your students and colleagues.

  • Everything about this pandemic is stressful, and someone’s individual situation—including financial precarity, a troubled home life, physical or mental illness, and other personal and structural factors—may compound that stress.
  • Avoid making assumptions about what students are able to do or what technology they have access to, and be prepared to provide accommodations wherever possible. If you have discretion over late penalties and extensions, please consider the guidelines of the CUPE 3902 Mental Health Action Committee.
  • As educators, we may be some of the only people our students have regular contact with outside of their living situation, and our courses may be an important source of normalcy and community. The situation may be similar for our colleagues. This means it’s more important than ever for us to treat others with kindness, dignity, and respect.

Remember that this is an emergency.

  • We cannot reasonably be expected to deliver a seamless online course or to be as “productive” as we would be under ordinary circumstances.
  • The Canadian Association of University Teachers recommends that we use the phrase “emergency remote teaching” rather than “online teaching” to better reflect the realities of the situation. Preparing a genuine “online course” requires far more work and training than our members (and the faculty) have been given.
  • Just as we must treat our students with care and kindness through this challenging time, we deserve care and kindness ourselves.

CUPE 3902 does not support the transition to online classes as a long-term pedagogical policy. 

  • While we recognise that emergency measures must be taken to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, we oppose any attempt to use this situation as a precedent for phasing out physical classes.

CUPE has provided a guide for Ontario workers on the types of self-quarantine or self-isolation that individuals are advised to practice in case of a potential exposure, confirmed exposure, or confirmed infection with COVID-19.

Information for Specific Members

  • Your academic freedom, including your right to determine your course structure and assignments, remains in effect. This means that it is your right as an instructor to decide how your course will adapted for remote delivery. Your department does not have the right to dictate what changes must be made to your course design or assignments; on the contrary, your department is supposed to support you in making the changes you deem to be most appropriate.

 

  • You are advised to ask your department chair or supervisor for the support you need to teach your course without undue personal hardship or overwork. That support may include, but is not necessarily limited to: paid training, additional pay to compensate the additional work of online delivery, additional TA hours for your course, IT support, flexibility around academic policies; and reimbursements for technological and/or home office expenses. Unfortunately, there is significant variability between departments in terms of the level support offered. If you contact your department and your requests aren’t met, contact the union: we may be able to support you, and at the very least your story will help us build our case for guaranteed supports for all course instructors and sessional lecturers regardless of department of work.

 

  • You have the right to raise workload issues with your supervisor, and you may be entitled to additional remuneration for work beyond the normal scope of the course.
    • Unit 1 Course Instructors are explicitly entitled to raise workload issues with their department chair if they feel that the workload in a course exceeds either: (a) the work for a comparable course in the same department; (b) 460 hours for a full course; or (c) 230 hours for a half course. For other Units, the Collective Agreement language is less clear, but you are still encouraged to raise workload issues with your supervisor if you feel like your workload has significantly increased. Supervisors should make every reasonable attempt to reach agreement on workload issues.
    • Unit 1, 2, 3 and 4 Course Instructors and Sessional Lecturers are entitled to additional remuneration (at the applicable TA or SIA rate) for additional work that is required to take place after the end of the appointment, including marking deferred exams or assignments, or providing information related to alleged academic offenses. If you believe you are entitled to additional remuneration for this kind of work, contact your department chair. If the nature of remote teaching requires you to perform other kinds of additional work after the end of the course, contact the union, as it may be possible for us to make an argument for additional remuneration.
  • The Union and the University are close to signing a Memoranda of Understanding on student course evaluations. If signed, Course Instructors and Sessional Lecturers will be able to decide whether or not student evaluations for any course taught during the period where physical distancing measures are in place (May through to August 30) may be relied on in future hiring decisions or in the Unit 3 advancement process.

 

  • There will be no in-person exams this summer, and you are allowed to assign a different form of assessment during the exam period. Instructors working in the Faculty of Arts and Science should consult their website for policy updates. Instructors working in different faculties should visit the relevant webpages for more information.

 

  • In courses with multiple instructors (such as large language courses), a coherent plan for delivering the course online must be worked out with the course coordinator.

 

  • Students are expected to report absences due to COVID-19 through ACORN. The normal processes apply for absences for other reasons and other illnesses. With that said, we ask instructors to be generous in excusing absences and granting extensions; our students are going through the same stress and anxiety as we are. If you have flexibility over extensions and late penalties, please consider the guidelines of the CUPE 3902 Mental Health Action Committee.
  • You cannot be expected to work a greater number of hours than are specified in your appointment without additional pay. The normal process for requesting additional hours—completing a Workload Review Form and contacting your supervisor (normally, the course instructor)—still applies, but the University has assured us that it will be willing to approve reasonable requests.

 

  • Unit 1, 2 and 4 Teaching Assistants: you must be provided with a Description of Duties and Allocation of Hours (DDAH) form within 15 working days of accepting an appointment. There should then be a paid meeting, of at least 30 minutes, to review the form before This meeting should provide a meaningful opportunity to raise concerns about workload and should not be to simply rubber-stamp the allocation of hours proposed by the instructor. The midterm DDAH review is also an opportunity to raise concerns if you think you will not be able to complete the required work in the hours provided. You can also complete a Workload Review Form and submit it to your supervisor at any point in the term.

 

  • Unit 3 Sessional Instructional Assistants: you must be provided with a breakdown of the duties of your appointment, and the hours allocated to each duty, within 15 working days of accepting the appointment. If you believe that you cannot perform the required duties within the hours provided, complete a Workload Review Form and submit it to your supervisor as soon as possible.  

 

  • Your supervisor cannot significantly alter the nature of your duties without your agreement; that is, your supervisor cannot add a new category of work to those agreed to in your DDAH, or increase your total number of hours.

 

  • Please be generous to your students at this time. They are going through the same stress and anxiety as we are. If you have flexibility over extensions and late penalties, please consider the guidelines of the CUPE 3902 Mental Health Action Committee.
  • After a lot of back and forth with the University, the Union was able to ensure that Chief Presiding Officers, Assistant Invigilators, and Invigilators, Services to Persons with Disabilities, received pay for the April exam period even though in-person exams did not take place. The specifics of the payout depended on the campus or department of work.
  • Unfortunately, a similar offer of pay continuity is not available for the summer. Members who were expecting CPO or invigilator work from the summer exam periods are advised to look for alternative sources of income.
  • Some work will continue to be available for Invigilators, Services to Persons with Disabilities. We expect that this work will be conducted remotely wherever possible. If you are asked to facilitate an in-person examination and have concerns about your personal safety, please contact the Union. You have the right to refuse unsafe work, and we can assist you in understanding and exercising that right.
  • Writing Centres have suspended in-person appointments, but will continue to hold appointments through other means such as over the phone or online.
  • You are entitled to a written description of your duties and responsibilities prior to the first day of your appointment. Your hours cannot be decreased, and they can only be increased with your express written agreement.
  • The Faculty of Music has suspended in-person appointments, but where possible will continue to hold appointments through other means such as over the phone or online. Unfortunately, the realities of music instruction have meant that a good deal of the work that is normally available may not be posted.
  • All lab-based research operations are shut down until further notice. The University’s Incident Management Team may make exceptions for laboratories that are engaged in “critical COVID-19 research and time-sensitive critical projects”. If you are asked to go into a lab that hasn’t received approval to remain open from the Incident Management Team, contact the Union.
  • You are entitled to three months’ notice, or three months’ pay in lieu of notice, before any early termination of a contract.
  • Despite the disruptions, we’re continuing to implement the gains of the new Unit 5 Collective Agreement. In particular, we’re in discussions with the University about the new Professional Development/Special Circumstances Fund. Stay tuned for updates!

INFO ON GOVERNMENT SUPPORTS

The governments of Canada and Ontario have taken a number of steps to provide support to workers, tenants, and student loan holders affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Please see below for more information.

Employment Insurance Sickness Benefits

Members who have worked a minimum of hours (600 in Toronto) over the 52 weeks prior to the date of application and who are unable to work because of sickness, injury, or quarantine are eligible to apply for employment insurance sickness benefits of up to $573 per week for fifteen weeks. The one-week waiting period for employment insurance sickness benefits has been waived, and members will be eligible to receive benefits as soon as they are unable to work. Members are not required to provide a medical certificate in support of their inability to work due to sickness, injury, or quarantine.

For more information, visit the Ministry of Employment and Social Development Canada’s website. To apply for employment insurance sickness benefits, visit Service Canada’s website.

Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB)

NOTE: Please note that the Government of Canada has announced the discontinuation of CERB, to be replaced by an “enhanced” form of Employment Insurance. Please visit the government’s website for more details.

Members who have lost their income as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic are eligible to receive up to $2,000 per month in taxable income for up to 6 months. This includes:

  • members who are ineligible for employment insurance benefits;
  • members who must stop working due to COVID-19 and do not have access to paid leave or other income support;
  • members who are sick, quarantined, or taking care of someone who is sick with COVID-19;
  • members who are parents who must stay home without pay to care for children that are sick or need additional care because of school and daycare closures; and
  • members who still have their employment but are not being paid because there is currently not sufficient work and their employer has asked them not to come to work.

 For more information, visit the Government of Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan.

Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB)

The federal government recently passed legislation creating the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB). This benefit is meant for students who do not meet the income threshold for CERB. The CESB will provide most students with a monthly benefit of $1,250. However, students with disabilities or one or more dependents, will receive $2,000 per month.

Please note the following basic qualifications for the CESB:

  • You must be a Canadian citizen, permanent resident, or protected person as defined by federal statute;
  • You must have convocated after December 2019; or currently be enrolled in post-secondary education; or be enrolled for courses beginning in September 2020;
  • You do not currently have work or cannot find work as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • In addition to the above, please note that, as a result of an amendment to legislation introduced by the Conservative Party, students must look for work while collecting CESB. The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has been empowered to demand proof of job search from students.

Applications can be submitted through the Canada Revenue Agency portal.

NOTE: If you have $5,000 or more in income, you may qualify for CERB and should consider applying for this benefit. While international students currently do not qualify for CESB, they do qualify for CERB if they have a Social Insurance Number (SIN) and meet all other qualifications.

The Government of Ontario’s moratorium on evictions has now been lifted. In addition, the Ford government has passed Bill 184, better known as the “Mass Evictions Bill”, which allows a landlord to quickly and easily evict a tenant who enters into a rent repayment agreement and has difficulty sticking to it. 

In Toronto alone, 3,000 tenancies could be affected by this legislation. The City of Toronto is currently challenging the legality of the legislation in court. 

The governments of Canada and Ontario have suspended mandatory minimum payments and interest accrual on federal and provincial student loans (respectively) between March 30, 2020 and September 30, 2020.

Automatic withdrawals will stop automatically. Loan holders who want to continue making payments may do so by through online banking, or by logging in to their National Student Loan Centre accounts and using the Make a Payment option.

For more information (and details on student loans issued by provinces other than Ontario), visit the National Student Loan Centre.

In addition to the above, the federal government has doubled student grants for the 2020-21 

MONTHLY UPDATES

Beginning June 2020, we’ll be posting any new updates below, organized according to the month they are released. 

HEALTH AND SAFETY

CUPE National has released a Health and Safety guide specific to our economic sector. We encourage members to make use of this guide. As more Health and Safety material becomes available, we will update members!

Your Union has been actively engaging the Employer in discussions regarding campus reopening and the health and safety of our members and students. Campus unions recently released an open letter on this issue, and we’ll have much more to say very soon!

A MESSAGE FROM THE VICE CHAIR, UNIT 3

On June 27th, the Vice-Chair of Unit 3 sent out a message to all members of the Unit outlining how the Collective Agreement may help them during this difficult period of adjustment. 

Coming soon!

HEALTH AND SAFETY

The Local continues to have concerns with the University’s campus reopening plan. 

U of T’s plan fails to address key questions about health and safety, including:

  • Why is the University pushing ahead with in-person education in the middle of an unprecedented health crisis, especially when it will put the health and safety of students, tutorial leaders, contract instructors, faculty, library workers, staff, and the entire campus community at risk?
  • How is it even possible to adequately mitigate the risks of the ‘three Cs’ of COVID-19 spread —’close contact’, ‘closed spaces’, and ‘crowds’—in a regular classroom setting?
  • Why is U of T out of step with other GTA and Ontario universities that have opted to offer Fall courses solely (or mostly) online?

CUPE 3902, 3261, 1230, 3907, USW 1998, and UTFA have launched a petition on this issue – please sign and demand better from the University!

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Need Help? Your Union is Here for You!

Your union is here to ensure that your workplace rights are respected in this difficult time. You can reach our friendly Staff Representatives by calling our office at (416) 593-7057 or by emailing us. Your departmental stewards are also resources for you; if you don’t know who your stewards are, you can find out by logging into the member portal