March 25, 2020 COVID-19 Update

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

  • Issues with APT mem­bers and increased workload.
  • Aca­d­e­m­ic mem­bers includ­ing ses­sion­als fac­ing increased work­loads while tran­si­tion­ing to online cours­es for the remain­der of the semester.
  • Aca­d­e­m­ic mem­bers con­cerned about the University’s deci­sion to move cours­es online for the spring and sum­mer semes­ters, and the Uni­ver­si­ty pro­vid­ing ade­quate resources to do so.
  • Aca­d­e­m­ic mem­bers con­cerned about tenure timelines.
  • Issues with some fac­ul­ties con­tin­u­ing with stu­dent teach­ing eval­u­a­tions despite a dra­mat­ic change in the work­ing and teach­ing environment.

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, 

Syl­vain Rheault

URFA Pres­i­dent