Message #13 to Our Members Re. COVID-19
Recently, small numbers of staff have begun returning to the University of Manitoba and additional returns are being considered for early August. The Bannatyne campus has hired screeners who are ensuring that staff and students who are displaying flu-like symptoms are prevented from entering campus buildings and they are working in concert with the nearby HSC protocols for entry to the work site. Research activities have been given priority with respect to returning to campus and specific plans and approvals are necessary for any area looking to commence working at their offices or labs.
At this point in time, AESES does not have any comprehensive details regarding which areas are returning to work nor the specific details of any return to work plan from either University. Earlier this week, we wrote to the Human Resources Departments at both the University of Manitoba and the University of Winnipeg regarding procedures for re-opening. We have many questions and concerns surrounding the safety and wellbeing of AESES members and are asking the universities to provide answers assuring us that appropriate steps are being taken prior to any of our members returning to the workplace.
AESES does anticipate a cautious approach to any re-opening of the universities for the foreseeable future. A full-scale return of staff and students is unlikely without more successful medical interventions in place to manage and contain the coronavirus outbreak. Although Manitoba has done well so far, it is important to recognize that the rate of illness could change within a short period of time. The experience in the U.S. and Brazil are good examples to remind us that this pandemic is not over. We must remain vigilant and follow the advice of our health officials to best protect ourselves and others.
We are seeing that the planning of vacations (or more aptly “staycations”) is becoming a focus for those still working as they try to balance work and time off over the next few months. We strongly encourage our members to take their earned vacation time to de-stress and get rejuvenated. We expect the work environment will continue to be disrupted by the pandemic for many months into the future. Our advice is not to wait until you are feeling overwhelmed, but to start planning for a break from work long before you reach the point of total exhaustion.
To those who are caring for children or elderly parents, work-life balance is even more critical to maintain. Unfortunately, we have already seen members who have struggled to manage under these pressures. Please use the many resources available if you find you are facing difficulties, including the following:
The World Health Organization has numerous resources available for parents:
- ‘Parenting in the Time of COVID-19’
- ‘Connecting the world to combat coronavirus: #HealthyAtHome – Healthy parenting’
- A Children’s story book to help children and young people cope with COVID-19
- UNICEF also has provided 8 tips on how to talk to your child about COVID-19 and 6 strategies for teenagers to protect their mental health during COVID-19
To end our message on a positive note, the recent legal success of the Partnership to Defend Public Services confirmed our belief that the Pallister government had gone too far and interfered with the charter protected bargaining rights for unions. Although the Government may appeal this decision, it appears clear that the law should continue to be on the side of workers. An additional benefit to the judicial decision is both Ontario and Nova Scotia unions may now gain from our ruling as they are facing similar legislation in their provinces. The success of our case provides an important legal precedent for their pending challenges.