Message #12 to Our Members Re. COVID-19
The University of Manitoba held a meeting with AESES late on Friday to update the union on information they have now received from the Province. As reported earlier by President Barnard, it appears that the Province has gone forward with a reduction to the operating grant for the UM; however, it is not as draconian of a cut as anticipated given the government had previously asked for scenarios of 10%, 20% and 30% salary savings.
While the reduction to the operating grant is disappointing, the government has also not dictated that these reductions must apply to salaries alone. The University can find savings from different sources of University operations and they are actively looking for those opportunities. Additionally, the UM had built a small contingency fund into this year’s budget and they are able to utilize that funding to help minimize the effect of the cut to the operating grant.
Many will have heard in the news that the Province has also established a fund for post-secondary institutions to apply to in order to assist them with fulfilling their mission of teaching as the pandemic continues to present challenges on this front. This is a pointless shell game that the Province is playing by taking money away with one hand and offering it back with the other. What purpose does this fulfill other than create further anxiety and uncertainty for public-sector employees? Regardless, this is somewhat good news from the UM and it appears that mass layoffs or severe cuts to salaries will be avoided. While we haven’t yet had an update meeting with the University of Winnipeg, we anticipate hearing a similar message from their administration.
We have a few other items we want to touch upon for today’s message.
First, we’ve been hearing from our members, particularly in areas that have experienced layoffs, that other employees are being asked to perform duties normally assigned to their position. It’s important for everyone to know that during this unprecedented time the University has a higher degree of discretion in how they decide to manage their workforce. Where there is a reduction in work which has resulted in staff layoffs, the University can assign the work that needs to be completed to the staff that remain in the unit regardless of who would normally perform that work. The University can also take this opportunity to cross train employees on different responsibilities within the unit for backup purposes. Although these changes can occur, employees still have the right to expect a manageable workload. Anyone experiencing difficulties in this regard should contact the AESES Office at email@example.com or by phone at 204-949-5200.
Second, we’ve been hearing of areas at the UM where managers are asking members to consider taking unpaid days off under the Vacation Purchase Plan (VPP) with the inference that it will ensure that there are no job losses in the unit. We wanted to emphasize to our members that this is an entirely voluntary program. Further, while this is one measure the University is pursuing to deal with the reduced operating grant, it does not offer a guarantee that jobs will be protected from a temporary layoff in those units.
Finally, we’ve been getting a number of emails from our members who have asked if they can support their fellow AESES members by contributing to the COVID-19 Assistance Fund. While these kind offers are appreciated, all AESES members are already contributing to this fund by virtue of paying union dues. We are very pleased to report though that UMFA has made a very generous donation of $5,000 for our assistance fund as a way of helping AESES members that have experienced a layoff. A sincere thank you from AESES to the faculty members at the UM for offering your support.