Update on AESES’ Meetings with Universities: COVID-19
AESES met with the University of Manitoba yesterday afternoon in an effort to bring answers back to you, our members. These are unique and difficult times, and AESES committed to working with the University under these challenging circumstances that we are all facing. We recognize that this pandemic has given all workplaces little time to prepare and adaptation is critical.
In our meeting, we raised multiple concerns with regard to employment, safety, and health matters, along with a number of issues that AESES members have brought forward to our office. Of utmost concern is that there appears to be inconsistent messaging taking place in departments across the University. This was particularly raised by AESES given the need to improve the level of direct communications and to clarify the operational expectations in departments. Consistent messaging is vitally necessary at this time to lay out clear and concise plans and to calm fears.
The decisions being made by the University with regard to keeping specific areas open or closed is changing rapidly, and at this point there is no certainty as to which areas will remain either partially or fully in operation or if they will be closed entirely. It is unclear what the intent of the University will be for areas that may close entirely and where employees are sent home with no work. AESES has requested that the University continue to pay our members in these situations, regardless of the availability of work, to ensure they do not suffer financial distress during the uncertainty of the pandemic we are facing. While the University hasn’t committed to maintaining pay for employees out of work due to closures, we will continue to press for them to do so.
AESES also addressed the issues in the Dental Clinics and Security Services as these units have specific safety challenges that require modifications to their normal business operations. Our goal is to ensure that these concerns are reasonably addressed by the University.
Recognizing that some areas will require extra efforts and manpower to continue operations, whether at the work site or remotely, the University has agreed to allow for flexibility in overtime or bank time limits. Additionally, the University has agreed that where employees have had to cancel travel plans, they will be permitted to cancel their vacation and the amount of vacation carryover will be extended to accommodate these situations.
With the closure of schools and licensed daycares in Manitoba, many parents will need relief for these obligations by the end of this week. The University is supportive of members caring for their children and intends to be flexible with these arrangements. If you find yourself in this situation, speak with your supervisor to explore options for alternative work, changes to work schedules or remote work options. Although AESES pressed for employees to continue to receive their regular pay in these circumstances, the University thus far has indicated that where remote work and/or flexible schedules is not possible, there are options for employees to use banked and/or vacation time to continue pay. For employees without these options, you are encouraged to speak with your supervisors to discuss your situation.
At The University of Winnipeg, AESES still has not been included in any pandemic planning discussions. We have received some responses to our questions and concerns, which have been included in the Faculty and staff FAQ page on the University’s website. We have also pressed with the University to continue pay for those employees who find themselves out of work and not able to make alternate arrangements or work from home. While the University hasn’t committed to maintaining pay for employees, we will continue to press for them to do so. We are also continuing to request that AESES be included in these important discussions.
At this time there is limited news on the EI program changes that are being considered by the federal government. We are hopeful that a more robust EI program can provide financial support to families during this time of uncertainty. Members needing to apply for EI can do so through the Service Canada website at https://www.canada.ca/en/
As we continue to work on these and many other issues for our members, we will endeavour to continue to provide ongoing communications and assistance. AESES is available to support members at our normal business office email and phone numbers. To reach our labour relations staff at AESES please call our main line at 204-949-5200 or email email@example.com and you will be directed to someone who can assist you.
Now is the time to consider, and be considerate of, the needs of our families, friends and colleagues. Respect social distancing, sneeze or cough into your sleeve, and wash your hands regularly. If you know of someone who is self-isolating or is in quarantine, be sure to reach out to them via phone, text or video messaging. Ask if they need help with picking up groceries. Similarly, if you need assistance, reach out to others. COVID-19 is a social disease, so let’s join together as a society to combat the spread and help our neighbors.