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Current as of: March 31, 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.

Please review this page regularly as we will post updates below as they become available. Updates will be clearly noted in purple font with a date attached.

OVERVIEW OF SITUATION

On the morning of Friday, March 13, 2020, the President of the University of Toronto announced that all in-person classes in undergraduate and research stream Masters and Doctoral courses will be cancelled for the remaining three weeks of the term. Teaching will continue through other means, mostly by moving course materials and lecture delivery online. This policy is in effect on all three campuses and also at Victoria University and the University of St. Michael’s College. 

It is important that we continue to perform our bargaining unit work to the extent that it is safe to do so. Our work is essential to the University’s mission and we have a responsibility to our students. While aspects of our work may change during this unusual time, the Union is here to ensure that your rights are respected—including your right to a safe workplace, your rights under the collective agreement (including pay and workload), and your academic freedom.

UPDATE (March 18, 2020):

All students in University residences who are able to return home are being asked to do so. However, all students who need to stay are able to stay; no one is being forcibly evicted. Student Life’s communications on this point have been culpably unclear, causing an unnecessary amount of stress for students in residents, especially international students, at an already stressful time.

UPDATE (March 31, 2020): 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.

UPDATE (March 17, 2020):

Following the Provincial Government’s announcement of a state of emergency, the University of Toronto is now:

  • Closing all libraries as of 11:59 pm, March 17. UPDATE (March 24, 2020): These closures now extend to all libraries, including the Robarts Library and the libraries at UTM and UTSC, which had been open in a limited capacity. All digital services remain operational and accessibility services will also be available. There is no need to return books at this time; all loans will be extended and no late fines charged.
  • Closing all building as of 11:59 pm, March 17. Members who have fobs or keys to access buildings outside of regular work hours will still be able to access the same buildings at any time. However, everyone is advised to work from home to the extent possible.
  • Requiring all lab-based research operations to be shut down no later than 5 pm, Friday March 20. Exceptions will be considered for critical COVID-19 research and time-sensitive critical projects; see the University’s protocol for more details. Postdoctoral fellows and members who work in labs in other capacities (e.g. as graduate students), please take note of this update to previous information.

UPDATE (March 31, 2020): All instructors must find alternatives to in-person exams for Jan-April semester. Accessibility Services is still providing accommodations to students as necessary. All courses beginning May will be offered online. A final decision about the delivery method for courses beginning in July will be made by June 13.

 

Information for Members

  • There will be no loss of pay for any employee as a result of the University’s cancellation of in-person teaching. You may be expected to perform some of your duties in a different way—for example, by grading assignments online or by arranging phone calls with students instead of in-person meetings. However, you will be paid for the full amount of your appointment regardless of whether it is possible for you to complete all of your duties. UPDATE (March 17, 2020): Further information can be found at U of T’s human resources website. In addition, funded graduate students will continue to receive their funding packages in full and in accordance with their funding letters.
  • There will be no loss of pay if you cannot work or must self-isolate because of COVID-19. Please complete a Self-Declaration Form you are in this situation; no doctor’s note or other verification of illness is required. Leave for illnesses other than COVID-19 or for other reasons must go through the regular processes outlined in our Collective AgreementsUPDATE (March 17, 2020): The Self-Declaration Form has four categories: (1) Sick leave; (2) Self-isolation (in compliance with public health advice); (3) Immunocompromised; (4) Caregiver Responsibilities. You are advised to complete the form if you are unable to work for any of these four reasons. 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.
  • Accommodations, such as the ability to work from home, should be provided wherever possible and reasonable. As an example, persons with immunodeficiency conditions have the right to self-isolate to ensure their own health and safety. Your department is your first point of contact for working out 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. 
  • 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 vehemently oppose any attempt to use this situation as a precedent for phasing out physical classes.

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 be adjusted. 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.

 

  • The University has circulated a guideline for instructors about the changes you may decide to make in your courses. Be aware that some changes can be made unilaterally by the instructor, some must be made in consultation with students, and some must be made in consultation with the Dean’s office. 

 

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

 

  • The University assures us that support is available for instructors who need assistance transitioning to online course delivery. Your department is your first point of contact for accessing these supports; contact the CUPE 3902 office if you encounter pushback.

 

  • The University recognises that it may take time to transition to online course delivery. If you are not ready in time for next week’s classes, it is acceptable to postpone. The most important thing is to notify your students about what you expect.

 

  • The transition to online course delivery may entail a significant amount of additional work for course instructors. If you expect this to be the case, your first step is to contact your department about the support you need to prevent overwork. It is also possible, but not guaranteed, that additional pay may be available if additional work is required of you; this will be part of an ongoing discussion between the Union and Labour Relations.

 

  • 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.
  • You cannot be expected to work more hours than your appointment without additional pay. The normal process for requesting additional hours—contacting your course instructor or departmental TA Coordinator—still applies, but the University has assured us that it will be willing to approve reasonable requests. You also have the right to turn down additional work. 

 

  • 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.

 

  • An example of a significant alteration is requiring you to set up or administer an online teaching platform instead of teaching in-person tutorials. Your supervisor can make non-significant adjustments to your allocation of duties without your agreement, provided that they do not increase your total number of hours.

 

  • If some of your assigned work (such as leading tutorials) is cancelled and the hours are not reallocated to a different task, you will still be paid for it.

 

  • Please be generous to your students at this time. They are going through the same stress and anxiety as we are.

UPDATE (March 16, 2020): While the University has not announced the cancellation of in-person examinations, some facilities and departments, including the Faculty of Arts and Science, have already made this decision, and we expect other faculties to follow suit. For CPOs and invigilators (including invigilators providing services to persons with disabilities), we have no clear answers for you at this stage. We will be advocating for some kind of wage protection to ensure you have some income for the period, but cannot make any promises. We also do not know whether you will be asked to perform some of your work remotely. Accessibility Services will be continuing to provide accommodations to students with disabilities. If you have received an offer of work and not yet returned it, we advise you to do so as soon as possible, as this will strengthen our case for wage protections.

Our understanding is that Writing Centres are suspending in-person appointments, but will continue to hold appointments through other means such as phone or online. Details may vary by Writing Centre, so writing instructors are encouraged to connect with their specific Writing Centre if they have not already received an update.

Our understanding is that the Faculty of Music is suspending in-person appointments, but will continue to hold appointments through other means such as phone or online. The Faculty will be communicating next steps to those affected by the cancellation of in-person appointments. There will be no loss of pay for employees who experience a cancellation of duties in the event that there is no alternate delivery model possible.

UPDATE (March 17, 2020): The University of Toronto is requiring all lab-based research operations to be shut down no later than 5 pm, Friday March 20. Exceptions will be considered for critical COVID-19 research and time-sensitive critical projects; see the University’s protocol for more details. Where it is possible to continue your research from home, you may be expected to do so. If working from home is not possible given the nature of your research, you will not suffer a loss of pay as a consequence. Please also be aware of any additional policies or direction from your department or your Principal Investigator.

If you are unable to work, even from home, for a COVID-19-related reason, please complete a Self-Declaration Form. The Self-Declaration Form has four categories: (1) Sick leave; (2) Self-isolation (in compliance with public health advice); (3) Immunocompromised; (4) Caregiver Responsibilities. You are advised to complete the form if you are unable to work for any of these four reasons. You must also contact your Principal Investigator to let them know that you are unable to work and that you have completed the form. It is possible that your Principal Investigator will propose an accommodation to enable to you to complete your work; if you think that accommodation is unsuitable, contact the union.

Outstanding questions: Because the situation is changing rapidly, there are a number of questions that the Union cannot answer at this time. As a general policy, you should first contact the departments in which you work to discuss what accommodations can be provided to suit your individual needs. Labour Relations has expressed a commitment to following the advice of public health authorities, and departments are expected to follow through on this commitment by providing reasonable accommodations where necessary. Contact the Union if you are receiving pushback from your department on any issue where your personal health and safety, or the health and safety of your loved ones, is at stake.

UPDATE (March 17, 2020): The Union is in communication with Labour Relations about members who were expecting to work in the Spring examinations or in the summer semesters. At this time, we do not know what members in this situation can expect in terms of pay continuity. If you have a letter of offer for exam season or summer work that you have not yet signed and returned to your department of work, we advise you to do that as soon as possible.

INFO ON GOVERNMENT SUPPORTS

UPDATE (March 31, 2020): 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 600 hours 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

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 four 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.

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit will be accessible through a secure web portal in early April 2020. For more information, visit the Government of Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan.

You may be eligible to apply for both employment insurance benefits and the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, but you cannot collect employment insurance benefits and the Canada Emergency Response Benefit at the same time.

See also the attached information bulletin from the Canadian Union of Public Employees’ national office. Note that it was published prior to the Government of Canada introducing the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

Until further notice, all Landlord and Tenant Board hearings related to eviction applications are suspended. No new eviction orders will be issued by the Board, and sheriff’s offices will postpone enforcement of current eviction orders.

Tenants who can pay their rent must do so to the best of their abilities. The government of Ontario has encouraged tenants who are unable to pay rent during the COVID-19 pandemic to contact their landlords and arrange deferred payment plans; landlords are encouraged to work with tenants to establish fair arrangements to keep tenants in their homes. For more information, visit the government of Ontario’s website.

Leader of the Opposition and Ontario NDP Andrea Horwath has called for the government of Ontario to provide an eighty percent rent subsidy up to $2,500 a month for four months to Ontario tenants who qualify for federal emergency benefits related to the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information, visit the Ontario NDP website.

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.

Guide to Self-Isolation

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.

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