Frequently Asked Questions

 Clinical Trial FAQ - Melanoma Research Alliance

Why do I pay union dues?

By paying union dues, members pool their resources together to ensure the protection of the group as a whole while allowing us to bargain for fair wages and benefits (i.e. paid vacation time off, personal days, sick periods, etc.), safe working conditions, and representation through the language in the collective agreement. 

Who negotiates our contracts?

The Bargaining Committee negotiates the contract (our collective agreement) on behalf of the members who are elected at our general membership meetings. The committee is composed of CUPE 3261 members and assisted by the CUPE servicing rep. 

Who approves the new contract?

Our members have the opportunity to attend ratification meetings, ask questions, and vote on approving a new collective agreement.

What is the current situation with the FT/PT and Casual contract? Are we starting negotiations this year?

The collective agreement expired on June 30th, 2020. Before the pandemic, our union was preparing to negotiate a new collective agreement. We elected a bargaining committee, held training sessions, and drafted a survey. However, in March 2020, all bargaining preparation was affected by the COVID-19 lockdown. 

The bargaining committee has decided that it is in CUPE 3261’s best interest to “rollover” unit contracts by another year. This means extending the current contract and resuming negotiations in the Spring of 2021. The committee came to this decision because of the difficulties posed by COVID-19. The committee deemed that having effective negotiation sessions and actively engaging members at work, including generating a strike mandate, would have proved difficult under these circumstances.

With many members staying home, alongside physical distancing rules, our ability to leverage effective bargaining power would have been limited. Instead, we are hoping that as restrictions are loosened and the economy picks up, we will have a better bargaining position in 2021. 

Has the rollover been approved?

Yes. The FT/PT agreement was ratified on September 11th, 2020, and is in effect until June 30th, 2021. 

How many workers have been laid off? 

As of May 2021, CUPE 3261 can confirm that approximately 350 members across all units have been temporarily laid off. Some workers have been transferred, had hours modified, or have been reclassified. We are actively addressing these issues with the employer. 

Will more CUPE 3261 members be laid off in the upcoming future? 

We do not have any information about further layoffs. With COVID cases declining (May 2021) and increased vaccinations, we believe we have reached the peak for layoffs, and expect workers to begin returning once campus begins its efforts to reopen. 

What about casual workers?

Due to decreased service and lockdown measures, most casuals have had their hours reduced to zero and contracts have not been renewed. Once normal operations resume, we can expect casual jobs to be made available again.  This is likely to occur in September 2021. 

When can laid-off members expect to come back to work? 

All laid-off members will have a return date in their layoff letter. Members should expect to return to work on that date. 

When will U of T resume normal operations? 

U of T has confirmed that the current situation will likely continue until September 2021. U of T is planning a safe and gradual return to normal operations, but it is unlikely that operations will be back to normal anytime soon. Until case numbers go down and mass vaccination begins (starting around early 2021), we can expect a gradual return to normal operations. 

U of T does plan on providing some in-person classes and activities following the rules and requirements of public health officials. Since COVID-19 is a rapidly evolving situation, we can expect more frequent updates on University plans throughout the semester. For more details, you can consult U of T’s UTogether

As far as the union knows, some sessional workers should expect to return to work as usual in September. Priority and schedule will be determined by separate seniority lists within the full-time and the part-time. Because of reduced campus activity, not all members will receive 100% of their hours. 

Why have some members had their vacation days used up? 

In order to prevent layoffs, the university decided to use member’s vacation days to keep them at work or keep them paid. We understand the frustration many members have with vacation days being unilaterally taken away. Unfortunately, there is no language in our collective agreement that prevents this from happening. Section 20:01 of the FT/PT collective agreement states that the employer can designate vacation periods in accordance with operational needs. The best course of action for us is to ensure that our next collective agreement has language that prevents this from happening. The union, however, has filed two grievances to prevent the employer from taking members ‘ allocated vacation days from the following year. 

I’ve been reclassified to a lower position and being paid less. Is this allowed? 

The collective agreement has no language that protects workers who are reclassified into a lower position. The university is under the assumption that workers will be paid in accordance to the classification they are assigned. The collective agreement does have language that ensures members who work a higher classification get paid more, but there is nothing that prevents members from being less. Under existing case law, the government often permits employers to pay employees less during emergency situations on a temporary basis. However, the employer cannot do this permanently, and all members are expected to return to their regular classification when the situation improves. 

What is the union doing to protect members?

The union is working hard to ensure members are informed of the rapidly changing situation at U of T. We are working diligently with the employer to ensure all health and safety precautions for COVID-19 are being followed, and are encouraging work refusals whenever workers feel unsafe. We have worked with the university to ensure members facing layoffs are supported by pushing for increased financial support, which has been granted with the top-up, alongside health benefits that are being paid by the employer at no cost to members. We are working hard to ensure members understand their financial options and are providing regular updates on any news we receive. 

Am I eligible for the CERB? (No longer available, apply for CRB)

All members who have lost their jobs, or have had their hours significantly reduced (and are now making less than $1000/month) due to reduced operations are eligible for the CERB. At the same time, all FT/PT members who are on CERB due to COVID-19 related layoffs are qualified to receive the U of T top-up. If you have another job on the side and are making more than $1000, then you are not eligible for the CERB. 

The last day of CERB is October 3rd, 2020, and the last day to apply is December 2, 2020. After October 3rd, eligible recipients will move to Employment Insurance. 

For those ineligible for EI and who have lost their income or employment due to COVID-19, you can apply for the Canada Recovery Benefits. Learn more here. 

Who can get the top-up?

Members who were laid off and eligible for CERB should be receiving the top-up. Sessional members who have had their layoffs extended into the Fall term are now eligible to apply for the top-up as well. You must apply for it through the HR Service Centre. 

I’m a casual and my hours were cut to zero, do I qualify for CERB? (No longer available, apply for CRB)

Yes, as long as you were expecting to work. However, some casuals had their contract expire at the end of April or early May. This means you’d only qualify for the CERB periods prior to this date, and only if you had hours cut before the end of your contract. If you were promised employment after April 30th, but no longer have work because of COVID-19, then you should apply for CERB. If you don’t qualify for CERB, but happen to be a student or a recent graduate, you can apply for the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB). If you have enough hours, you can apply for Employment Insurance (which converts to CERB). 

With the discontinuation of CERB and CESB, casuals who were expecting to work during the school year but are not due to COVID-19, and otherwise are ineligible for EI, should apply for the Canada Recovery Benefits. Learn more here. 

Why wasn’t the Summer top-up available to sessional workers?

Some sessional members who do not regularly work over the summers have inquired into why they are not eligible for the top-up. The top-up is provided only to workers who regularly work over the summer, and were expecting to receive their regular income. The top-up is meant to support these workers on top of the CERB they are already receiving. 

What kind of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) am I entitled to? 

Many members have been asking about access to face masks. Under previous health guidelines, masks were not been deemed mandatory or essential. However, recently masks have been made mandatory in indoor buildings that are publicly accessible across U of T, which follows new guidelines enacted by the City of Toronto and the Peel Region.  All workers are encouraged to continue practice physical distancing, and in situations when physical distancing is not possible, workers must wear a face mask. If your employer is not providing face masks, and physical distancing is not possible, you have every right to carry out a work refusal for unsafe work. All work refusals should be reported to your supervisor and health and safety representative or steward for a quick resolution. 

The union is providing non-medical masks for free to all members. Members who have not received one may pick one up from the union office, located at 703 Spadina Ave, second floor.  Please check first with your supervisor if you plan on wearing a non-medical mask to ensure it complies with workplace rules and regulations. The university is also providing two reusable non-medical masks to each employee. 

All workers must follow other health and safety guidelines to protect themselves and their colleagues. Frequent hand washing, disinfecting surfaces, maintaining distance, and wearing gloves when using chemicals, handling food service items or disposing of trash are important steps to protect one another. For more information and advice, visit

The CERB/EI and top-up are not enough, what other options do I have? 

For many members, the CERB or EI and top-up is not enough to make ends meet and support our families. These are difficult times, and we recognize the anxiety and uncertainty it is causing. As the university begins a slow return in operations this coming September, we are hopeful that schedules and regular pay will be gradually restored

If you need immediate assistance, the province has its own emergency assistance program that you can apply for on top of CERB. Visit for more information. 

How do I get involved with the union? 

We encourage all members to get more involved with their union. The best way is to contact our president Allan and ask which opportunities are available. You may be able to become a shop steward, a health and safety representative, join a committee, or even become part of the executive! We also encourage you to come out to our General Membership Meetings held every February, June, and October. 

Why should I get involved with the union? 

Because you are the union! The union is paid for and run by the members of our local. We are very lucky to be unionized, meaning we are protected by the collective agreement. The union serves both a legal and activist role that pushes back against employers, creating a stronger balance between workers’ interests and employer power. Getting involved strengthens the ability of our union to protect workers. Whether it’s by having your concerns heard, having an influence over the collective agreement, or by building our strength in numbers when we mobilize to fight back and protect our interests. Whenever you are booked off, you will always be compensated for your time.


If you have any other questions, feel free to send us an email at