Government announcement: Plan to Reopen Post Secondary

Ross Romano delivered his announcement today alone at the podium.

The Minister announced what he termed a “pilot” of in-person instruction on campus, so 10,000 college and university students can complete labs and/or practicums and graduate.

The pilot would start July 2 and last eight weeks and will apparently “inform” re-opening plans for the fall term. On campus, “in-person instruction” will be required to follow health and safety protocols, including screening, regular disinfecting and cleaning, and physical distancing. Romano said one of the innovative aspects of the pilot will be “peer-to-peer monitoring” by workers or students to ensure physical distancing measures are followed.

Romano did not announce any new funding to help colleges and universities cover the costs of these enhanced measures.

Romano further announced a consultation that will wrap up in August, leading to major policy changes so that colleges and universities can “expand into new markets”:

  • transferability of credits
  • micro-credentials
  • more online learning.

In answer to a question from a CP24 reporter about the potential and concern that faculty and staff have about layoffs Romano said:

  • We don’t know the enrolment numbers yet
  • We hope today’s announcement will give more stability to the sector and to students thinking of putting down an deposit for fall tuition.
  • COVID-19 is a challenging time for everyone and colleges and universities won’t be immune to the challenges, they are “autonomous” institutions who have to do what they feel is appropriate.
  • At the end of the day, “colleges and universities are a business, they are in the business of providing academic services to students and learners”

Just as a matter of background. There are approximately 600,000 “students and learners” in the province. And he quoted 10,000 students as the number requiring lab or practicum hours in order to graduate.

The government’s press release is here.

In Solidarity,

Nancy Heath
President, OPSEU Local 245

Local 245 Response to the Furlough Agreement

Almost two weeks ago a resounding number of you came together to vote on the potential for talks between members of our division leadership and College Employer Council (CEC). While the vote was close across the province, the vote resulted in a “No” and talks were declined. Our vote here at Sheridan were #372 NO and 82 YES.

Friday, May 8th, a number of colleges with local “yes” votes began receiving offers of an agreement proposed by CEC, presumably the agreement that they had intended on tabling with OPSEU. We were approached by our Staff Rep on Friday May 8th via voicemail which we only just reviewed.

What we did not know at the time was that OPSEU went forward into discussions without our knowledge. OPSEU Central and College Employer Council developed a template agreement that was sent out to all 24 colleges modifying the agreement we had seen on Friday May 8th. We received a copy of the agreement from OPSEU, not from management, though they do know we received it for review

Your executive met several times over the last two weeks and reviewed the agreement and the situation before us, given that we felt our “no” vote was a strong mandate for us to adhere to the CA. We noted considerable concerns with the agreement, the very least of which gave up many of our rights under Article 15 for any member regardless of seniority and provided little to no additional protections for our already laid off part-timers. Other than that one voicemail left by our Staff Rep, we have not been approached by Sheridan College with a request to consider this “furlough agreement”. It was hinted at to two of our LEC Members in meetings last Thursday and we have called the College on the inappropriate method of trying to broker a deal with us. We are standing behind your “NO” vote and continue to file grievances at the Employer’s failure to follow Article 15 for FT Support Staff.

Your union leaders have been working tirelessly at all hours to work through the information, asking questions, finding answers, walking through various scenarios and attempt to weigh the benefits vs the concessions in all situations. We’ve been working together across the province meeting with other college support staff leaders and OPSEU staff. We all feel strongly that we cannot endorse an agreement which infringes on the rights that exist within our CA.

The attached “Response to the Furlough Agreement” was drawn up by the elected members of the Divisional Executive and Employee Employer Relations Committee to outline the division’s position.

We do not take these discussions lightly, and a plan was in place to discuss openly with you, but unfortunately a copy of the recent furlough agreement was posted online, before we had an opportunity to contact you directly. We do not plan on airing the Local’s issues on Facebook due to the nature of some of the information being shared.

As it stands, we are prepared to continue to uphold the language of the collective agreement and proceed as necessary working with the college. Now more than ever, we need to stand united here at Sheridan and across the province.

In Solidarity,

Nancy Heath
President, OPSEU Local 245

Sheridan Lays Off Support Staff

In these economic times employers have become increasingly concerned about their business, including Sheridan College. Fortunately here at Sheridan we have our two support staff collective agreements. One for our long standing full time unit, and our brand new part time unit.

For those in the full time unit who have been around for awhile, you will recall the dark days of bumping and layoffs. It was the collective agreement that gave the right for the union to be involved in recommending the best course of actions and other important transition benefits. Unfortunately, for our sisters and brothers in our Part Tine unit, the employer declined similar language that the full time unit enjoys. So, here at Sheridan this employer, hid behind their management doors to make their secretive plans to lay off scores of our sisters and brothers.

Shame!!!

Our Part Time unit will soon be opening negotiations for the renewal of that Agreement. This experience, I suspect, will lead to greater harmony between our two agreements on employment stability.

At this time, our union is as always, advocating for our sisters and brothers. We have received many requests for updates to our current job stability and the Employer is coming out with requests of our workers to utilize vacation balances. Please contact your steward if you have questions around this initiative and possible options.

We’ve just heard that public schools will not reopen May 4th and stricter travel restrictions are being legislated. We’ll be in this state for some time to come and work to come to mutually beneficial arrangements for our members tasked to support the online classroom, whether ours or their children’s.

Reach out, we’re here to listen,.

In solidarity,

Nancy Heath
President, OPSEU Local 245

Covid-19 Resources

virus

List of Covid-19 resources compiled by your OPSEU Local 245

Frequently Asked Questions: Income support for Canadians during COVID-19

Comparison Document: Federal Benefits During COVID-19

Prepared by OPSEU Research Unit – All information is current as of March 31, 2020

http://opseu245.ca/blog/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Comparison-Document-Fed-Benefits-COVID-19.pdf

Ontario Providing Electricity Relief to Families, Small Businesses and Farms During COVID-19

For a 45-day period, the government is working to suspend time-of-use electricity rates, holding electricity prices to the off-peak rate of 10.1 cents-per-kilowatt-hour. This reduced price will be available 24 hours per day, seven days a week to all time-of-use customers, who make up the majority of electricity consumers in the province. By switching to a fixed off-peak rate, time-of-use customers will see rate reductions of over 50 per cent compared to on-peak rates.

https://news.ontario.ca/opo/en/2020/03/ontario-providing-electricity-relief-to-families-small-businesses-and-farms-during-covid-19.html