President's Message

ASPA President’s Message

Written by Curtis Larson, September 2020

Fall officially arrives next week but I think many of us thought it arrived a couple of weeks ago when it hit -6C overnight. The warm weather has come and gone and the new academic term has begun. It will definitely be a different academic year with the hybrid approach to program delivery, but we are all back providing the support and coordination to make it happen.

First I want to introduce our new executive members who were elected at the April AGM online meeting. We welcomed Patrick Hauser, Tamara Hominuke, Karen Mosier, and Erin Walling. We also have welcomed Milan Bogunovic in August for a one-year term to replace Calvert ChiefCalf who unfortunately is no longer with the University. All of the new executive members have jumped in to take on important tasks for the executive by heading up committees, volunteering to put on talks for the membership, and filling the spot for our new treasurer.

A few weeks ago, I communicated to all of you that we have reached a tentative agreement with the University and I know many of you are looking for the details on the agreement. The bargaining team is working to put together a presentation for the membership that will provide you with all the details of our agreement, so look for that to happen in about 10 to 12 days. We will hold two online information sessions and also will put the details of the agreement and the presentation on the ASPA website after the first information session. Voting will take place online over a 7-day period shortly after the last information session as our constitution requires at least one information session to be held no less than 5 days before voting begins. The team is also working to secure a company to oversee the electronic vote, as was done with the last collective agreement vote, to ensure the vote is secure and fair. Once again I want to acknowledge the hard work of the bargaining team of Dawn Giesbrecht, Milan Bogunovic, Colleen Cochran, Graham Wisser and our consultant and co-chair Hugh Wagner. They really worked hard to get a deal that will help all members and listened very closely to what the members said, as this was important in the surveys that we sent out over the last couple of years.

COVID-19 continues to impact all of us and last week President Stoicheff announced that the University will continue to deliver most of the teaching online in term 2.  This means most of us will continue to work from home full or part time. We are already 6 months into this pandemic and for some this new work arrangement has been very stressful so I want to urge all of you to reach out to your supervisor, friends, co-workers, the employee and family assistance program if the stress and anxiety is becoming too much. ASPA is also here to support you if there are work related issues that are contributing to your stress levels. Related to working at home, ASPA noted that one recent posting for an ICT position was requiring the candidate to supply their own laptop and headset. This was changed after we contacted the employer but please remember you are not required to supply your own equipment for the job you were hired to do. ASPA has also asked the employer how they will be issuing the T2200 tax form to all employees required to work from home so that expenses related to this can be claimed on the 2020 income tax return. The employer is working on this and will be providing information to all faculty and staff closer to the end of the year. Just a heads up to watch for a notification from the Communications committee about an upcoming brown bag information session on ergonomics, which is very timely for all of us who may be working in less than ideal conditions at home.

ASPA continues to support our members through what has been a very tough spring and summer for layoffs. There have been over 50 ASPA members laid off since January 1, 2020, with over 40 in just the last 4 months. This has had a very negative impact on the members laid off as well as those left behind in the units affected by the layoffs. ASPA is fully aware of the University’s financial challenges, some significant one-time costs related to COVID-19 and other less significant structural shortfalls but we are trying very hard to work with the University to mitigate the impact on our members as much as possible and ask them to think creatively how we can keep our members employed at the University. ASPA is always willing to discuss alternatives to layoffs and present these to members as options. We have filed grievances on behalf of some members who were laid off and whose work was moved to a new position.  These are working their way through the process. There have been a variety of other member issues, some of which have been resolved fairly quickly, and others which are taking longer. ASPA was also successful in another arbitration case related to a termination in 2018. The University has decided to take this one to judicial review at the Court of Queen’s Bench so it is not completely resolved yet but we are confident there is a strong case and we are supporting our member through this.

I also want to thank the social committee for the work they have done over the last few months to help keep everyone engaged and provide some social relief. The photo contest was a great success and I know the committee is working on more ideas to provide some opportunities to you as ASPA members to participate in fun and entertaining activities.

Curtis Larson, ASPA President curt@aspasask.ca