We are over halfway through term 1 of the 2020-21 academic year and more than 8 months along dealing with the pandemic with most of us still working from home. As I am writing this the province is experiencing rising COVID-19 positive cases across the province with Saskatoon being particularly hard hit. The province also has announced mandatory mask wearing in all public indoor spaces for the city until at least November 28, something those of you that have been coming on campus have been doing since the beginning of September. I hope all of you are keeping well and taking the time to stay healthy both physically and mentally, as the stress and anxiety of the pandemic, working from home, social isolation, etc. can be overwhelming at times. Remember to make the effort to reach out to talk to people and access the many resources we have available to us through programs like the employee and family assistance program or just talking to a trusted co-worker or friend to get a different perspective on an issue that you may be dealing with.
ASPA has asked about receiving the T2200 tax form for our members that are working from home. This would allow members to claim home office expenses on their 2020 income tax returns. The university has advised that they will be issuing T2200’s, but are waiting to see if the CRA comes out with any guidance or changes to how this will be handled because of this being such a unique situation before they send out any communication. We hope that there will be a communication to the campus community from the university before the December break.
As was communicated earlier we have a new collective agreement after you, the ASPA membership, voted 92% in favour of the tentative agreement. We are working on the final wording of the new collective agreement which includes cleaning up some language to recognize changes in names to organizational units and other minor items and hope to have this all finalized by the end of 2020 so we can post the new collective agreement on the ASPA website in the new year. We expect to receive the payment of the signing bonus of $1,000 (prorated by FTE) on our December 15, 2020 pay and the new salary bands will go into effect on May 1, 2021 with the elimination of the target point and increments added to the four quartiles.
The university has announced that our APDA (also referred to as APEF in their communications) funds can be used to help set up your home office so that it is efficient and/or more ergonomically friendly. Up to one year’s allotment of APDA ($1,100) can be used for this but please note that any use of your APDA funds for this type of expenditure is a taxable benefit under CRA rules and will be added to your total salary for the tax year in which you use it.ASPA had been asking about this as an option for many months and is pleased to see movement on this issue.
The university is also looking to have a more formalized remote work program ready post-pandemic as they recognize there will be instances where ongoing remote work will be desirable for both the employer and employee. For now, most of us are required to work remotely but as we start returning to campus (whenever that occurs) this new program will be available and there will be the opportunity for those of you that are interested in continuing to work remotely to have a discussion with your supervisor and apply for a remote work arrangement. The university retains the right to approve or not any of these applications but they seem to be indicating that there will be greater opportunities for this to happen than maybe occurred in the past, and are encouraging colleges and administrative units to look at these options carefully.
As you will have heard the university has provided all employees with an additional 4 days off over the December (21st to 24th) break in recognition of the work everyone has done to keep the university going during the pandemic. I hope everyone is able to use this extra time to spend time with family and friends (virtually or otherwise) and recharge your batteries. From everyone on the ASPA Executive and the ASPA office, we wish all of you the best over the Holidays and for the New Year!
Curtis Larson, ASPA President