Note: URFA has a new webpage where we will be posting updates regarding COVID-19 on campus. Visit it here.
At the start of the semester, I think I can say without much hesitation that nobody expected this. I would even guess that at the start of this month, nobody would have imagined that the Winter 2020 semester would end in this way- a shuttered campus, a rush to move all courses online, cancelling spring convocation and plans to teach spring and summer courses online as well.
The COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented. Faculty Associations and labour unions across the country are working hard to ensure that their members are being treated fairly as employers react to the circumstances. URFA is doing the same and we are working, as we do every day, to ensure that your collective agreements are upheld. URFA does understand that these are exceptional circumstances, and that changes to the way the Universities and Colleges operate will have to be made on a temporary basis. However, they still must maintain the obligations that they have to you as an employer as laid out in your collective agreements.
Over the past week we’ve heard concerns from members resulting from the change in working environment and the transition to online course instruction. Below are some of the concerns we’ve heard over the past week, what we’re doing about them, and how you as an URFA member can help.
What We’ve Heard
What We’re Doing to Address These Concerns
URFA is currently exploring working on an MOU with the employers in order to address some of these issues and more so that there is a clear set of guidelines in place during this time. URFA is open to having a dialogue with the Administrations as to what their plans are moving forward. We will update members as we continue to work on developing any MOU with the employers.
APT Members (U of R, FNUniv)
Please make sure you are tracking your hours if you are working in excess of normal working hours. If the change in the working environment has required you to do work that is outside of your JEQ, and it has not been addressed by your direct supervisor, please contact URFA as soon as possible.
Academic Members (U of R Academic, Campion, Luther, FNUniv Academic)
Please make sure that you have and are currently tracking the number of hours required to move your courses online. URFA is here to ensure that you are being provided the time and resources that you need, and that you do not suffer any adverse consequences if you encounter any difficulties in doing so.
The University has announced that courses for the spring and summer semesters are being moved entirely to remote teaching and learning. We understand that members are concerned about this decision and a lack of consultation from the employers. URFA’s primary concern is the health and safety of our members, and there is no indication that the COVID-19 pandemic will be over any time soon. The Universities/Colleges have a duty to ensure that adequate resources are provided to support members during this transition, and URFA is here to ensure that they do so.
Members have expressed concerns about how tenure timelines will be affected. If members are able to apply for tenure, we recommend that you stick to the timeline as outlined in your collective agreement. If the changes to the working environment is affecting your ability to apply for tenure, please contact the URFA Office as soon as possible. URFA is exploring an MOU that would potentially allow for flexibility in these timelines.
While some faculties have suspended student evaluations of teaching for the semester, others have indicated that they are moving ahead with them anyway despite the massive disruption that has occurred to the student’s learning environment. It is URFAs position that the only thing that can be measured this term is the student’s satisfaction with the University/College’s ability to transition to online learning. Members’ ability to move courses online, and the student’s satisfaction with instruction, can simply not be evaluated due to these exceptional circumstances and members should not suffer any consequences from a negative evaluation received in this semester.
Sessional Members (U of R Academic, Campion, Luther, FNUniv Sessionals)
Sessional members should continue to track their hours when working to put their courses online.
URFA is here to ensure that you are being provided the time and resources that you need, and that you do not suffer any adverse consequences if you encounter any difficulties in doing so.
How you can help
URFA is asking all members to please contact us if you are having any concerns or issues related to COVID-19 and the changes made to the working and teaching environment. It is vital that we are aware of any problems so that we can work to resolve them as soon as possible.
This is a stressful time, and your colleagues may be having difficulty adjusting to the significant changes made to their working environment over the past week while also working to care for their families and stay healthy. Remember to be respectful and patient, and check in on your colleagues via email, text, Zoom, or other forms of remote communication.
Always here for you
Even though most of us may be apart and working off campus, we are still the collective voice of over 1,600 URFA members. Together, we are stronger, and can work to make sure that every member is treated fairly and equitably.
The URFA office is working remotely, but we are still available to assist you with questions, concerns and issues related to COVID-19 as well as any other usual inquiries. However, please note that as a result, member inquiries may not be responded to immediately, and all intakes will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
As I mentioned before, this is an unprecedented situation, and it remains unclear how long this situation may last. In order to help begin the process of returning to normal, please keep working to maintain social distancing practices, and stay home as often as you are able to do your part in stopping the spread of this virus.
And lastly, a huge thank you to everyone for their hard work during these difficult times. Our institutions simply could not function without you.
Stay healthy and stay safe,