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,
URFA continues to closely monitor the situation regarding the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and the changes that are being made that affect the working environment of URFA members.
Yesterday, the University of Regina sent out guidelines for working remotely. URFA encourages U of R and FNUniv APT members to speak with your direct supervisor to arrange working remotely. If you have any questions or concerns about your ability to work remotely, please contact the URFA office as soon as possible. The U of R’s guidelines for working remotely, including for those who have child care obligations, can be found here.
For members who are remaining on campus, please remember to abide by social disatancing practices. As a reminder, all URFA members have the right to refuse to work in conditions that are deemed to be unsafe. If you have any questions about refusing unsafe work, please contact the URFA Office.
As well, if any APT members are notified of any reduction in work hours that affect your salary, pension and benefits, please notify the URFA office as soon as possible.
URFA staff are currently working remotely, however, we are still working hard to serve all members during this time. As always, if you have any questions or concerns regarding changes to your working environment due to COVID-19, or anything else, please contact us and we will assist you.
URFA continues to closely monitor the situation regarding the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) as the University of Regina, Campion and Luther Colleges, and First Nations University of Canada (FNUniv) have all made significant operational changes that affect the day-to-day working environment of URFA members.
The URFA President and URFA Executive Director met with University of Regina Administration on Sunday, and were briefed on the University’s decision to cancel classes and move courses online for the remainder of the semester. URFA supports this decision, as the health and safety of the university community must be the highest priority.
This is a challenging time. There have been many emails and communications from the employer, and we understand that you may have questions. Below, URFA has some information for members as we all do our best to adjust to a new working situation.
Most importantly, we want to hear from you. If you are facing any issues related to the operational changes that have been made due to COVID-19, please contact the URFA office at email@example.com .
Academic Members (U of R, Campion, Luther, FNUniv)
URFA understands that members are feeling pressured to move 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.
You should also consider the amount of time needed to move courses online. You are not expected to monitor emails and respond to requests outside of normal working hours.
Academic members have been told to work remotely and we strongly encourage you to do so.
APT Members (U of R, FNUniv)
APT members should track their hours if you are working in excess of normally scheduled working hours.
URFA understands that the University of Regina is looking at opportunities for members to work remotely “where possible.” We encourage APT members at both the U of R and FNUniv to speak with your direct supervisor to arrange possibilities for working remotely. If you have any questions or concerns about your ability to work remotely, please contact URFA as soon as possible.
All URFA members have the right to refuse to work in conditions that are deemed to be unsafe. If you have any questions about refusing unsafe work, please contact the URFA Office.
Sessional Members (U of R, FNUniv)
Sessional members should track their hours when working to put their courses online. As far as URFA understands, Sessional contracts will be honoured and your income should not be affected by any policy changes regarding course delivery.
Academic members including sessionals have been told they are free to work remotely and we strongly encourage you to do so.
URFA Office Operations
URFA staff are currently transitioning to working remotely. As a result, member inquiries may not be responded to immediately, and all intakes will be assessed on a case-by-case basis. The URFA Executive Director will remain in the office, however, it is asked that members please refrain from arriving at the office unless you have made previous arrangements to do so. The best way to contact URFA is by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Member Questions and Concerns
As mentioned, we want to hear from you if you have any questions or concerns about issues you are facing during this time so that we can raise them with the Administration and work to resolve them. Please do not hesitate to contact us at email@example.com
While the risk to Canadians remains low, URFA is closely monitoring the responses of our employers to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), and any changes the University/College Administrations may choose to make in the coming days and weeks that could affect the day-to-day working environment of URFA members.
URFA reminds all members that as employers, the University of Regina, Campion and Luther Colleges and First Nations University of Canada are all legally obligated to ensure the health and safety of its employees. All URFA members have the right to refuse to work in conditions that are deemed to be unsafe. If you have any questions about refusing unsafe work, please contact the URFA Office and we will assist you.
The URFA Office remains open at its regular hours. Member Services Officers are available to assist you with any workplace issues, and URFA Committee meetings are still being held as scheduled. Should there be any changes to URFA office operations, members will be notified.
We understand that this can be a challenging time. URFA encourages members to remain calm, practice good hygiene, and stay home if you are sick. Members who are eligible to receive benefits from the employer also have access to counselling and other resources from your employee family assistance program. If you do not have access to an assistance program, all URFA Member Services Officers are trained to provide mental health first aid and are able to assist you.
Please do not hesitate to contact the URFA Office if you have any questions or concerns.
University of Regina Updates (Includes Campion and Luther Colleges)