Message #9 to Our Members Re. COVID-19
As we continue to await word from the Universities regarding the response from the Provincial Government to their salary reduction submissions, we thought we would share some comments that our Board of Representatives and labour relations team are hearing from you, our members.
First, an update for our UM members. The University has begun the process of issuing temporary layoffs to employees in units where they have determined that there is no work possible, either onsite or from home. As of this morning, AESES is now aware of over 50 positions receiving temporary layoff notices in a number of areas, primarily Kinesiology & Recreation Management, Marketing Communications Office, the Book Store and a few smaller areas. AESES disagrees with the University’s interpretation of the Collective Agreement provisions and their process of implementing these layoffs, and we are exploring options with our legal counsel to formally challenge their actions.
At the UW, our Collective Agreement doesn’t have a clause dealing with temporary layoffs, so they are more constrained in their ability to take similar action. However, at both institutions they have chosen to not schedule any further hours for those part-time employees in variable hour positions where units have closed. These members should have received their Records of Employment in order to apply for EI or the federal government’s CERB program.
However, the main reason for our communication today is to relay to you the two main themes that we’re hearing from members that are of significant concern. One surrounds the workload issues that are arising and the other deals with the well-being of our members.
Workload: We have been receiving a significant increase in emails and phone calls from members indicating that they are struggling to keep up with the volume of work they are required to perform. While working from home has its benefits (the commute can’t be beat!), it also raises many challenges and often a quick task done at the office now takes two or three times longer to accomplish. You may not have all of the same programs or equipment from home and physical files are more than likely still at the workplace.
AESES members are amazingly dedicated employees who work hard to meet deadlines, produce quality work, help students and assist faculty and other staff in getting their work done. It’s far too easy, particularly while working from home, to start your day early, work through breaks and take shortened lunch hours just to get the voluminous amount of work you have on your plate done. While employees can typically handle the stress of this increased productivity for a short period of time, the continued strain on an individual of maintaining this pace over time is leading to extreme burnout in many.
We want to emphasize to our members that most of you are being paid to work a 7 hour day, and pushing yourself to work extra hours, particularly where you’re not being compensated for that extra time, is only hurting yourself. If you’re unable to get work done or meet deadlines, it’s incumbent on you to let your supervisor know. It will then be up to your supervisor to determine what takes priority or what will need to be postponed. A supervisor should NOT be responding with “it all needs to be done so figure it out”. If any member is having difficulty with their supervisor, please contact the AESES office for assistance.
Well-being: We’re hearing from far too many of our members that they are seriously struggling with the stress of their work situation and the anxiety of not knowing if they’re being targeted for a potential layoff. Even those who are busier than ever due to the increased enrolments are fearful that they will be temporarily reduced or laid off. Unfortunately, the Universities have done little to allay these fears.
We’ve talked to many members in recent days who are near their breaking point and are in need of immediate medical assistance. Members should not avoid dealing with their mental health and physical well-being before it becomes a crisis situation, especially during this pandemic. Sometimes connecting with a counsellor through EFAP is sufficient and is a good preventive step to take. In other cases, being in a continued state of stress leads to adverse physical symptoms and disorders. This is where it’s most important that you talk to your family doctor and seek medical care. Where employees are experiencing a legitimate medical situation that necessitates time off from work, most are entitled to paid sick leave. If you’re in this situation and would like to seek confidential assistance from the AESES office, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 204-949-5200.
AESES is continuing to stand with our members and is committed to providing the necessary resources to the substantial challenges everyone is facing. As a reminder, we recently announced the COVID-19 Assistance Fund for those experiencing extreme financial hardship due to loss of work resulting from COVID-19 closures. Information on the fund can be found on our website at www.aeses.ca.
Stay safe & stay well.