COVID-19 Update – July 14, 2020

Dear members,

The executive has distributed more than 650 reusable non-medical masks to workplaces across St. George, UTM and UTSC. We have few masks left at the office, and ask you to contact us directly if you still need one. We have another shipment coming in 2-3 weeks, and we’ll be able to provide extra masks to all members then. 

U of T has also began distributing two reusable masks to each staff member. Some members have received theirs, while others are still waiting. Every member should receive their U of T masks within the next few days. 

Did you know that you can insert filters into your CUPE mask for extra protection? You can use paper products like coffee filters, paper towels or toilet paper,  or cut out a piece of a HEPA filter, or simply use a soft, breathable fabric such as nylon, cotton, or linen. 

CUPE 3261 continues to actively coordinate with other unions on campus to ensure workers are protected. We are working with the university to make sure that unions like ours have a say in the re-opening of campus. This involves active participation in the health and safety policies being developed for September to ensure a smooth and safe return for students and staff to campus. 

For more information on how the university plans on reopening, please visit UTogether2020: A Roadmap for the University of Toronto

In terms of how September will look like, what we do know is that at this point, it is estimated that roughly 90% of undergraduate courses will be offered online, with around one third providing optional in-person components. A higher proportion of graduate courses will be offered in person due to smaller class sizes. 

An online form has been made available by U of T for those who have questions about what September will look like. You can submit your questions here: https://www.utoronto.ca/covid19-contact 


New Facebook Group

To facilitate better communication between members and the executive, we now have a new Facebook Group. Members are encouraged to join the group, where together we can have discussions, share resources, ask each other questions, share concerns, and receive updates from the executive.  

To join the group, visit the link here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/cupe3261/ 

 

The Varsity: “U of T temporarily lays off scores of service workers amidst COVID-19 pandemic”

“The reality is that workers were already suffering before the pandemic,” James wrote. “Now they are suffering more, and our future looks uncertain.” 

He urges all levels of government to address the bigger picture of income inequality and “invest in people, invest in strong public services, support decent work and fair minimum labor standards and focus on getting us through COVID and beyond without imposing any cuts or austerity policies.

– Allan James, CUPE 3261 President

See the article here:

U of T temporarily lays off scores of service workers amidst COVID-19 pandemic

COVID-19 Update: Contract Rollover and Masks

Dear CUPE 3261 Members,
 
I am writing to thank those that joined the General Membership meeting with me on Saturday, June 27th, 2020.
 
During this difficult time that we are facing, I want everyone to know that we are in this together. I’ve heard some of your concerns and want to let you know that your union is listening. There are some things we still need to get through, but in the meantime, it is about sticking together as a union so we get through this together and become stronger!  
 
Recap what was discussed during the meeting — the employer had not yet agreed or disagreed on rolling over the contract for one year. The union’s position is that it is better to maintain the existing language and wait until things improve next year to resume negotiations. Another important requirement for us is to have the bridge maintained if the contract is rolled over.
 
We will let the membership know when the employer officially approves the rollover. We will organize a ratification vote for the membership to approve the rollover shortly after.
 
Masks
 
The union has received a large supply of reusable non-medical masks for all members. I have been visiting workplaces to distribute these masks. Please be patient with me while I continue delivering them. 
 
Since the masks are branded with the union logo, it is important you receive permission from your supervisor if you want to wear them at work.
 
Yesterday, the U of T administration sent out an email to all workers regarding a new mask policy. U of T has decided to follow in the footsteps of the City of Toronto’s recent by-law that mandates masks to be worn in all indoor public places starting July 7th, 2020. U of T will now require individuals to wear a mask or face covering when inside U of T buildings that are publicly accessible. 
 
To support this initiative, U of T will distribute two reusable, non-medical masks to every staff member. Details regarding their distribution will be released shortly. 
 
The overall new cases of COVID-19 in Ontario continues to fall everyday, and yesterday, for the first time in three months,  zero deaths were reported as a result of COVID-19. Meanwhile, nearly 87% of all COVID-19 cases in Ontario are now classified as ‘resolved’. This is good news for all our members and the province as a whole. As new cases dwindle, we can expect a further loosening of restrictions with a potential to enter Stage 3 this month, which would involve the reopening of nearly all workplaces and businesses.
 
However, we must continue our collective responsibility in limiting the spread of COVID-19. The virus is still here, and the potential for a second wave still exists. As a result, it is imperative we continue to practice the guidelines of health officials. This includes wearing masks, frequent hand washing, practicing physical distancing, avoiding large crowds, and staying home when sick. 
 

As always please stay safe and look out for one another.

 
Thank you,
Allan James
President, CUPE 3261
 
Masks can be picked up at the union office, located at 703 Spadina Ave, floor two. Email or call if you plan on grabbing one.

General Membership Meeting – June 27, 2020

Hello CUPE 3261 members,

Our union’s next General Membership Meeting (GMM) will be held on Saturday, June 27th, 2020 from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm.

To facilitate physical distancing, the meeting will be held online via Zoom. Zoom is an application that you can use on your phone or computer to connect live with others via webcam and/or microphone. You can download Zoom here for your computer, or search for it in your app store to download it on your phone.

In order to predict attendance and maintain security of the chat room, all members who plan on attending the online GMM must RSVP by registering below. All registrants will then receive the Zoom meeting ID and password by email.

RSVP Here

We know that there has been a lot of anxiety and uncertainty in the past few months, and with the continued lock down, we expect more uncertainty in the future. This GMM is an opportunity for you to learn more about what your union knows, and what we are doing to help protect the interests of workers, and to keep you safe and informed. It is also a good opportunity for you to speak up and share any issues or concerns you are having. We encourage all members to join us.

There is also no obligation to have your video or microphone on – you are welcome to sit and watch. A chat feature will allow you to type up any questions/concerns.

The GMM will also be opening nominations for two executive positions: President and Recording Secretary. To learn more about the positions and their responsibilities, you may consult the by-laws on our website here.

For those interested in running, you must be nominated during the meeting. If you are unable to attend, you can submit your name in writing (simply send us an email and let us know). If the positions are contested, the election will be held at the following GMM in October.

Hope to see you there! Email us at service.workers@utoronto.ca if you have any questions/concerns.

CUPE 3261 Executive


GMM Agenda

  1. Roll call of officers
  2. Reading of the Equality Statement
  3. Reading and approval of minutes of previous meeting
  4. Treasurer’s report and approving expenditures
  5. Executive Board report (Bargaining & COVID-19)
  6. Nominations for President and Recording Secretary
  7. Unfinished business 
  8. New Business
  9. Adjournment
Date: Saturday, June 27th 10:00AM-12:00PM
Location: Online via Zoom
 
RSVP Below

Standing Up Against Racial Injustice

CUPE 3261 stands in solidarity with Black, Indigenous and People of Colour across Canada and the United States. As we’ve seen in the last week, millions of people have stood up to say enough is enough. Racial discrimination and police brutality are nothing new. These are issues that have been raised time after time for decades – yet little change has been made. 

In the US, we watched and continue to watch in horror as innocent black people are brutally murdered, from George Floyd, to Breonna Taylor, to Ahmaud Arbery, and in recent days, Jamel Floyd, Sean Monterrosa, and the life threatening attack on activist Justin Howell. 

Canada is not immune. The recent deaths of Regis Korchinski-Paquet in Toronto, Jason Collins and Eishia Husdon in Winnipeg, D’Andre Campbell in Brampton, and countless others across Canada shows that we cannot be silent. We have to stand together against white supremacy, demand police accountability, and fight for racial justice. 

We must end racial profiling and the over-policing and incarceration of Black, Brown and Indigenous people. We must demand an independent inquiry into the death of Regis Korchisnki-Paquet. We must hold the police accountable for their actions. We must defund the police and invest in social services, education, housing and end economic insecurity. We can’t keep sitting on the sidelines.

Pretty words are not enough. We, together as a society, must do more. We need to support our black brothers and sisters. We must hold difficult conversations with our family and friends. We must demand concrete action from our politicians. We must confront systemic racism and the oppression it enables. And we must always be listening, learning, and reflecting. 

Silence is not an option.

PETITIONS:

If you are able, please consider donating. Donations provide material support to organizations doing important work, and can make a huge difference. CUPE 3261 will also be donating $200 to Black Lives Matter Toronto to support the amazing work they are doing. (Higher donations require membership approval, but we hope to bring it up in the next GMM)

DONATE: 

Find out more how you can help black folks and support anti-racist initiatives by visiting   https://www.refinery29.com/en-ca/2020/06/9851684/black-lives-matter-how-to-help-donate-support

and 

https://blacklivesmatters.carrd.co/?fbclid=IwAR35cmZyUhYF-IpkfSjiFUkZ7D9fRRIii-kWolKgzw3JG5V0UueABefoBLw

and if you want advice on how to have a conversation, please consult this article:

How to Talk to Relatives Who Care More About Looting Than Black Lives

Support For Laid Off Workers

Dear Members,

As many of you already know, due to the COVID-19 situation the University has recently began temporarily laying off workers for the summer. 

Layoff notices were first issued in the middle of May, and have primarily affected workers in Food Services. Recently, workers in athletic services have also been laid off, and in the upcoming weeks, we will see more workers in Food Services laid off. 

The University has offered a temporary top-up of 80% of regular income, up to a maximum of $250/week ($1000/month), minus payroll deductions, to all laid off workers who are recipient of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). The top-up will be provided for 13 weeks, and will be paid out on your regular pay days. The university will also continue to provide benefits to those who are laid off at no premium expense to the worker. 

This means that with the CERB, laid off workers can receive a total of $3000/month, thus we encourage those who are eligible to apply for both the CERB and the top-up. Please note: the CERB allows workers to supplement their income by no more than $1000/month. If you have another job, or receive income that puts you over the $1000 threshold, you may not be eligible for the CERB and/or payments may be clawed back by the CRA in the near future. 

In order to apply for the top-up, you must login to the HR Service Centre and fill out an application, with proof that you have received the CERB (i.e. bank statement). 

To apply for the CERB, visit https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/cerb-application.html

Members who need additional emergency financial assistance are encouraged to consult the Ontario Works program, a provincial benefit program for low-income/unemployed Ontarians.  Call them to determine whether or not you are eligible.  https://www.mcss.gov.on.ca/en/mcss/programs/social/ow/


Members can also continue accessing EFAP (The Employee and Family Assistance Program). EFAP offers counselling, information and resources for all employees and their dependent family members. Examples include:
• Emotional Support: counselling, coaching, online courses, and tip sheets on stress and
anxiety management, resilience, and other mental health supports
• Financial Planning: coaching, online courses, and tip sheets on topics such as budgeting,
managing financial stress, debt management, and handling financial setbacks

Services are offered remotely and confidentially 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year
by calling 1-800-663-1142. Additional tools and resources for managing finances, anxiety, stress
and resilience can be found at: https://homeweb.ca/


Pension: If you are enrolled in the University’s pension plan, you can continue to accrue
pensionable service during your temporary layoff. A letter outlining your required contributions
will be sent by regular mail to your home address. Please log in to Employee Self Service to
ensure your mailing address is correct, or work with your manager to have it updated on your
behalf.


As always, if you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to contact your union president by calling the union office at 416-946-7620 or emailing Allan at service.workers@utoronto.ca


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COVID-19 Update – Temporary Layoffs

Dear CUPE 3261 members,

I am writing to you today with difficult news about COVID-related layoffs at the University of Toronto.

Today the employer has issued notices of temporary layoff to 59 members of CUPE 3261. This includes full-time and part-time workers of the main bargaining unit, as well as workers in the 89 Chestnut bargaining unit. These are all COVID-related layoffs, and are different from usual seasonal layoffs.

The University has indicated after weeks of maintaining Pay Continuity for our members, they are unable to financially sustain this for revenue-generating departments such as food services, parking services, or athletic services that are losing business. The University has explained that this is why the layoffs are primarily happening in departments who sustain their staff out of their revenue.

These are temporary layoffs. Depending on how the COVID situation plays out, these workers will be recalled as per recall provisions of our collective agreements.

“Top-up” income from UofT on top of CERB during COVID layoff

While this is certainly tough news to get during economic instability under COVID, we welcome the news from the University that all full-time and part-time members getting COVID-related temporary layoffs will get a top up to the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) of 80% of their salary, or $1000 per month ($250 per week), whichever is less. As mentioned above, this is only to cover COVID-related temporary layoffs, and not all layoffs.

CERB is the benefit that workers who have lost work due to COVID should apply for, which is different from regular EI benefits that other laid off workers could be eligible for. To get the top-up from the university, these 59 members must apply for CERB.

How to apply to CERB

The application for CERB can be found online: https://www.canada.ca/en/services/benefits/ei/cerb-application.html

There is also a detailed Q&A available from CUPE about CERB:

https://cupe.ca/canada-emergency-response-benefit-qa

NOTE:

Those laid off due to COVID are eligible for CERB benefits as long as they make no more than $1000 a month.

However, if any of these 59 CUPE 3261 members have other jobs where they make some money, getting the top-up from UofT may put them over the $1000 monthly cap. This may result in some benefit clawback from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). The CERB is only intended for those who have lost work due to COVID and do not make more than $1000 per month.

Continuation of benefits during COVID layoff

We also welcome the news from the University that for those who are already enrolled in benefits as of April 30, 2020 and are being laid off due to COVID, the University will pay both employer and employee contributions. These benefits include extended health care, dental care, vision care, life insurance and long term disability.

Casual workers

We understand many casual workers are having hours reduced or are not getting any hours of work. However, the University has explained that since casual workers will not be technically laid off like a full-time or part-time worker, they are not be eligible for the top-up. However, casual workers losing work due to COVID are eligible for CERB, so we encourage you to apply if you have not already.

CUPE 3261’s next steps

Your union is in the process of getting the names of the laid off workers from the employer. We plan to have CUPE 3261 stewards reach out to all laid off members and ensure they are aware of all of the information above. In the meantime, please let us know if you have any questions.

It has now been over 8 weeks of COVID. Since the beginning, CUPE 3261 has been receiving all our members’ questions and concerns. CUPE 3261 has also been in regular discussions with the employer since the beginning of this pandemic crisis advocating for each and every CUPE 3261 member. None of us wanted this. We know that the University has also done a lot of our work to avoid this situation. The government response to this crisis has been unjust and unfair. They have bailed out financial institutions and the super rich, but are not investing enough into public services or into working class people. Corporations and the super rich are not only not paying their fair share, we are all subsidizing their private profit from the public purse. This is wrong. CUPE 3261 disagrees with the Ontario government’s underfunding of our vital public services, whether it is long term care or universities, which leads to systemic inequality that affects workers and public service users.

CUPE 3261 is working with all levels of CUPE as well as partners within the UofT community, such as other unions and student unions to develop a joint campaign to put people over profit, to fund high quality public services for all, and soon we will release more information on how you can help. We have a tough journey ahead of us, but together, I believe that we will come out of this situation stronger.

With you always,

Allan

COVID-19 Update – April 30, 2020

April 30, 2020.

Dear members of CUPE 3261,

Pay continuity:

The University of Toronto’s commitment to pay continuity for our faculty, librarians and staff has been consistent since March 14. Most have been working from home, while others – essential workers or those performing critical functions – have been working on site. This will continue to be the case after April 30.

Some of our staff members have been unable to work at all, because their units have completely or partially shut down due to physical distancing requirements. In the coming weeks, leaders across the University will be exploring all options to see how we can keep staff in these units engaged and supported.

Members should continue to talk to their manager and Supervisors to access:

COVID sick leave;

COVID self-isolation;

COVID childcare;

COVID immunocompromised.

The University is prepared to provide access to the Employee & Family Assistance Program (EFAP) to casual employees in the CUPE 3261 – 89 Chestnut and CUPE 3261 Casual bargaining units on a without prejudice and without precedent basis for the duration of the COVID declared emergency.

Protecting our members remains our main priority, although things may feel hopeless rest assure it will end at some point, we must continue be positive and refrain from pointing our fingers.

This type of behaviour is counterproductive. We need the think of our brothers and sisters that may be less fortunate than ourselves.

I believe in our members humanity, and justice for all.

Together we can combat this!

“Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words. Keep your words positive because your words become your behavior. Keep your behavior positive because your behavior becomes your habits. Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values. Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.” –Mahatma Gandhi

Allan James

President CUPE 3261