With less than two weeks before the start of classes, reports of escalating COVID-19 infections in Ontario during this 4th wave of the pandemic have faculty members concerned about their health and safety, as well as the health and safety of family members, students, staff and the York University community.
YUFA issued a statement on August 12, 2021 supporting York University’s mandatory vaccination policy while strongly disagreeing with their announced plan to remove physical distancing and room capacity limits. YUFA is disappointed that the employer has yet to provide concrete answers to the concerns we have shared with them, particularly since we learned of the proposed 30% return to in-person teaching for September. As outlined in the Health & Safety Checklist distributed to members on July 19th, 2021 our concerns include room ventilation, sanitation and water systems in York University buildings and classrooms, the enforcement of the mask wearing policy, and how the university will verify the vaccination status of individuals who will be on campus.
YUFA encourages York University to clearly communicate to colleagues that it will be enforcing 2-metre physical distancing in accordance with current public health requirements, as referenced in their August 18th edition of Wellness Wednesdays: Return to Campus Well-being Connection. We note that this objective appears to be inconsistent with the policy of 30% in-person teaching declared in May. We also call upon York University to ensure adequate maintenance staff and building upgrades that would make a September 2021 return to campus safer.
YUFA therefore finds it unacceptable that colleagues have encountered a frustrating, invasive, and protracted process in seeking the Ontario Human Rights Code-based workplace accommodations to which we are entitled. Many members initiated the process of securing medical and family status accommodation early on but were instructed by the administration to wait until closer to the start of classes for their family status requests to be considered. YUFA only recently learned that the administration outsourced the work of handling family status accommodations (requests to teach remotely to protect the health and safety of vulnerable family members and individuals with whom we live) to a third-party company, Organizational Solutions Inc. YUFA was not consulted in this process. It is even more distressing that the majority of family status accommodation requests have been unreasonably denied. The requested accommodation rarely involves additional costs to the employer.
YUFA has filed a policy grievance to address COVID-19 related matters, including the university’s failure to respect the rights of units to determine mode of course delivery, which have further increased workloads, and its failure to accommodate our members.
YUFA continues to press our employer for concrete details on how they will ensure the health and safety of colleagues returning to campus. It is time to update members, hear your questions and concerns, and discuss the best avenues for addressing these issues collectively.
We invite all members, including members with difficulties securing workplace accommodations and those colleagues who are assigned in-person teaching for Fall 2021 or Winter 2022, to a Special General Membership Meeting on September 2, 2021, 2:00 – 4:00 pm. Details to follow soon.
Please plan to attend this emergency meeting so that we can share our concerns and consider how YUFA should respond to these and any other concerns you may wish to introduce.
Mark your calendars for more upcoming events
YUFA members are further invited to attend a panel of public health professionals including experts on health and safety measures, law, equity, and pandemic modelling, organized by the Coalition of 4 Toronto University Faculty Associations and Academic Unions (OCAD University, X/formerly Ryerson University, University of Toronto, and York University), scheduled for September 9, 2021. This event is open to all teaching faculty and there will be time for questions to the panelists. Please hold the date in your calendars and watch for updates on this important event.
YUFA Stewards Council meeting will take place on September 17th, 2021, 10:30am –1:00pm. We will welcome new stewards and provide colleagues with updates on the progress of bargaining. All Stewards Council meetings are open to members. Details to follow soon.