Dear Unit 3 Colleagues,

Those of you who attended Friday’s Coffee Hour will have seen this already, but here is a list of Unit 3 Collective Agreement provisions that may help resolve some of the COVID-19-related problems our members have been experiencing. 

First, a bit of context. For the past three months, your union has been pushing the employer to put into place pandemic-specific, university-wide policies to help our members navigate the sudden and significant changes to our work. We’ve asked them to sign Letters of Understanding, as other universities have done, to create dedicated funds to compensate our members for technology and training, etc. We have gotten a firm no. The employer will not agree to anything above and beyond our existing Collective Agreement, will only address issues on a case-by-case basis, and expects our members to approach their department chairs with specific concerns. This is extremely frustrating, since it means our members have experienced an uneven response – some of us have proactive, responsive chairs, while others do not (to put it rather mildly). 

The following list, compiled primarily by our Staff Rep, Gina Gignac, is a list of provisions already in our Collective Agreement, which we believe can be used to push back against some of the negative effects of COVID-19 on our work. I am providing it so that you have an understanding of what might be possible to achieve in this moment, as well as the limitations the union has faced when dealing with the individual concerns many of you have already raised with us. Some of these provisions apply only to Sessional Lecturers, while others apply to all Unit 3 members, as noted. 

The full Collective Agreement can be found here.

Unit 3 Collective Agreement Provisions
Relevant to COVID-19-Related Work Changes

Extra Work: (SLs only)

Article 15.06 (a) outlines a process where Sessional Lecturers feel their workload “exceeds that of a comparable course…” can raise the matter with their supervisor. There is not a mandatory process that applies in the event that they cannot reach agreement, but a grievance could be filed.

Work After End Date of Appointment: (SLs only)

Article 28.01 provides a process for remuneration when work which is directly related to an appointment “is required to take place following the normal ending date of the appointment”.

Elimination of Position: (SLs only)

Some members in Unit 3 have experienced the elimination of an appointment that has been offered and accepted (i.e. a signed contract) as a result of changes in the delivery method of teaching. Article 14:16 provides compensation under certain circumstances, depending on when the course was cancelled.

Technology: (Everyone)

Article 22.03 states “Divisions shall ensure that insofar as possible, consistent with the physical facilities available to the Division, employees shall be provided with an appropriate place for holding office consultations with students, and with the use of such other facilities and equipment as are required for the performance of their duties, with due regard for the need for student confidentiality.” This could theoretically be interpreted to mean equipment needed for online teaching, though we have not tested this out yet.

Article 22.07 goes on to state that Unit 3 employees “shall be given access to the University of Toronto computer and wireless network on the same basis as other course instructors.”  A review of Unit 1 CIs as well as full-time faculty in a member’s department could be done to determine what positions to use as comparators. (This might be of use if you feel as though there is a double standard, i.e. that full-time faculty are being given online teaching tools that you are not).

Training: (Everyone)

Article 22:08 stipulates that “Employees shall receive paid training in Blackboard and any online technology required for the performance of their assigned duties, to be paid at the hourly SIA rate.” This is fairly straightforward: if you have spent time learning how to use an online teaching platform (Snagit, Zoom, Bb Collaborate, etc.), contact your department’s business officer and ask how you should claim this. There is no number of hours specified, but be reasonable. If you have no idea what a reasonable number of hours might be, my own department offered 8 hours of training, which felt like about the right amount for me. The hourly SIA rate is currently $46.00/hour.

Health and Safety: (Everyone)

Article 23:01: “No employee shall be required to act, nor shall any employee act in the course of the employment, in a manner which constitutes a health or safety hazard.  The Employer recognizes a responsibility to provide sufficient facilities, supplies, and services to protect the health and safety of employees as they carry out their duties.  The parties agree that the Employer shall provide, and employees shall make use of, protective equipment and training wherever the same are required for the safe and effective performance of an employee’s duties.  The Union shall have the right to elect or appoint employees to safety committees in areas where they perform duties.” Stay tuned for an email coming soon asking for Unit 3 members to serve on Joint Health and Safety Committees. These are paid positions, and will be crucial in ensuring that the employer is providing safe and healthy workplaces for our members. 

Extra TA Hours: (SLs only)

This one isn’t actually in the Collective Agreement, but department chairs have been told that they can make extra TA hours available to instructors, including our SLs. If, like many Sessional Lecturers, you’ve found that putting your course online takes a lot more time than teaching in person, please request more TA hours. You can request these either in order to assist you (i.e. creating Quercus quizzes or other online material), or to account for the extra hours TAs may spend on their own duties, such as monitoring discussion boards, or both. If your chair makes this option available, don’t hesitate to respond in the affirmative. If your chair doesn’t mention it, don’t be afraid to ask. 

If you have questions about any of these provisions, or need help figuring out next steps, please feel free to contact me at the email address below.  

In Solidarity (against Precarity),

Kristin Cavoukian
Vice Chair, Unit 3
CUPE 3902