This Too Shall Pass

February 2, 2021

This Too Shall Pass.

Greetings fellow CUPE members.  Many of you have heard these words before but I think they need repeating.  This COVID pandemic has been very hard on everyone.  It has created many challenges and caused many people to experience some mental health issues.  It has been identified that many people struggle with the onset of winter each year, with its shortened days and reduced sunlight.  The holiday season, which we just went through, causes more anguish for some of you also.  The difference this year, of course, is the challenges that COVID has thrust upon us.  The financial worry, if you are on a lay off or your spouse is.  The concern you have of the health of your family.  The limited contact that you can have with your extended family and the impact that has on aging parents and others.  The decisions that many of you have had to make regarding your children’s education, do you enroll them in school or attempt to home school.  These are some of the things that are creating the “perfect storm” for mental health.  I urge you all to seek out professional help if need be through our EAP resource, which is free to you and your family, or with an external counselor which there is some funding available for you.  I would also ask that you reach out to your friends, fellow coworkers and extended family to see how they are doing.  One conversation can be a life changer.  People need to know that someone cares about them and that others are going through similar challenges.

We are also going through some downsizing at the University. When permanent positions are eliminated at the University, as a permanent employee, you will be offered 3 choices as per Article 12 of our Collective Agreement.  One of those options is placement.  We do not encourage people to choose this option.  With placement, you are required to submit a current resume and then you are required to monitor the job postings and, if you see one that appeals to you and you feel you are qualified for, you contact the SBA assigned to you and they forward your resume to the hiring manager.  If you are qualified and its agreed that you are qualified, placement will get you an interview for the position.  There is no guarantee that you will be selected for the position.  In a time of downsizing, we are seeing significantly fewer job postings each week.  Placement only applies to vacant positions.

One other option is severance. For some of our older, long service members this can be appealing.  Severance is based on your years of service as per Article 12.2.3   You would be entitled to 2 weeks pay for every year of service, at your current rate of pay, to a maximum to 15 months pay.  If you are approaching 60 years old, this may be an option you would consider.  As part of that decision, you will need to check to see what your pensions will provide for you, both our old Defined Benefit pension and our new CAAT pension plan.  For quick reference, you can look back at your last year’s Defined Benefit Pension plan statement mailed to you last January to get a sense of what you would receive from that plan.  The CAAT plan won’t be very much as we have only been in it a short period of time.  You will need to know what you could receive from your Canada Pension Plan, CPP.  If you have a “My Service Canada” account, you can access this information.  Once you have those pieces of your financial well being, you can book an appointment with your financial advisor to discuss your options.

The final option for those going through this process is the bumping option.  This option is not understood by many of our members and also by some mangers and other bargaining units on campus.  I encourage you all to read Article 12.1.6.   Within 21 days of choosing this, you will be provided with 2 options.  The SBA assigned to your case will be tasked with finding a position for you at the University.  You will need to submit a current resume for them to work with.  They will use this resume to check for positions at the University, first in your job family and phase, and then in lower phases if need be.  This is not about finding you your dream job.  This is about keeping you employed at the University.  CUPE 1975 doesn’t have a voice in what positions will be offered.  Once they identify a position you may be qualified for, they run the seniority lists to see if you are more senior than someone currently in one of those positions.  If not, the search continues.  This often takes up to the 21 days when you are bumping.  We want them to take their time and find a suitable position for you.  We don’t want you to be set up to fail.  Once you make your selection between your two choices, you will enter into a 90 day assessment period. It is imperative that once you are offered your two choices that you don’t share those choices with others.  It can create unnecessary anxiety for some of our other members if they find out that they could be bumped out of their position.  Once you have made your choice, the employee you have displaced will receive their choices under Article 12.  In a recent MOA with the employer, we have agreed that if you bump someone out of their position, you cannot be bumped out of that position for the following 6 months.  These are not easy choices for many of you to make.  When you bump into a position, how will your new co-workers and managers view you?  Will you be accepted?  It is for these reasons I would like you all to consider how you would like to be treated if you were doing the bumping.  At a recent re-open meeting with Cheryl Carver, the AVP of Human Resources, the University is on target for an 8 million dollar deficit this fiscal year.  Some departments and colleges are managing well and have a balanced or slight surplus while others are running a deficit.  This pandemic has forced many departments and colleges to reduce costs by eliminating positions.  I’m seeing these adjustments throughout campus so some of you could be faced with these decisions to make for yourself.

In closing, I would like to say that in the best-case scenario, some of you will only be inconvenienced by this pandemic.  Most of us will have been impacted financially, either through job loss for ourselves or our spouse.  Many of us will be struggling with some mental stress. Unfortunately for some, it will be more than an inconvenience.  It will involve the loss of a family member or friend from the direct results of COVID.  I encourage each of you to follow the policies and procedures implemented by the University, by the Province and by Canada.  Wear a mask, social distance, limit travel among other things.  By following these simple guidelines, you will save lives.  If you’re not willing to do it for yourself, do it for your family and friends.  You could be the one who doesn’t get severe symptoms from COVID but are the conduit to pass it on to others who may not be so lucky.

This Too Shall Pass.

Bob Jones
President, CUPE 1975

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