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:
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.
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,