Message #10 to Our Members Re. COVID-19
As the waiting continues for our members to hear what possible actions the Universities may take with regard to potential staffing cuts, the Provincial Government has now decided that there is no hurry to issue formal instructions to both Universities, after forcing them to provide their salary savings scenarios in an unreasonably short time frame. This continues to provide further evidence of this Government’s lack of respect for unionized public-sector workers and is an attack on these fairly paid, high-quality workers. This behaviour is irresponsible during normal times and under the current circumstances undermines the contribution our members make to the thousands of students who benefit from the valuable work you deliver daily. Your compensation is not a line on a balance sheet, it is an investment in the next generation of leaders in our province.
Despite the delays, the response from the University of Winnipeg has been reasonable and over several conversations has provided as much guidance as can be practically expected under these difficult circumstances. Conversely, communication has been disappointing from the University of Manitoba as their response to the Province was sent over three weeks ago and, to date, no substantial details have been shared with AESES.
As we reported earlier, AESES conferred with our legal counsel with respect to the temporary layoffs that are taking place at the University of Manitoba. We disagree with the University’s interpretation of the Collective Agreement with respect to how these layoffs are being implemented. As a result, we have filed an Association Grievance challenging the University’s actions. This is at the first stage of the grievance process and we will report further as this matter proceeds.
During all of this, our members have continued to provide excellent service to the Universities to ensure that operations continue to run as smoothly as possible. They are working from their homes primarily, and in many cases are required to also juggle child care, home schooling and, for some, supporting family members that have had their work reduced or eliminated as a result of these challenging times.
It has come to our attention that a number of members feel they are expected to constantly monitor their emails and phone messages beyond the normal hours for their work day. We have also heard of occasions where communications, including text messages, are being sent after hours or on weekends by supervisors and managers. While excluded managers may be subject to different work expectations and may feel that the clock is never turned off, AESES members are not part of this 24/7 work regime. This belief needs to stop as it has the very real potential of leading to unhealthy outcomes for too many of our members. The stress being felt by many from all of the changes that are taking place at work, at home and in society is already evident in the substantial number of communications AESES has received from our members who have concerns or who are struggling to manage.
After significant discussion within our leadership group, AESES is asking that members refrain from performing unpaid work in their units and ensure that they maintain a work-life balance that is reasonable. This includes taking their full lunch and work breaks and not responding to phones and emails after normal working hours unless formal standby is required and paid for. This also means that either overtime is approved to work beyond your normal hours in order to complete necessary tasks, or work that is deemed not important is left to another work day. Additionally, shift schedules are not to be flexed by managers nor should schedules be changed without proper notice in all cases. We appreciate that our members are dedicated to their work, their departments and the students. However, these are challenging circumstances and looking after your well-being and good mental health is vitally important. Managing workloads and expectations in units is necessary for the protection of everyone.
Please take the time to reach out to a co-worker or friend and make sure they are doing okay. A small gesture can serve as a breath of fresh air for struggling individuals. Our physical distancing does not have to lead to self-isolation.