Summer greetings to all my fellow ASPA members! My name is LaVina Watts and at the May 2021 ASPA executive meeting I was selected to be president for 2021-22. I am so honoured to be able to serve you in the role of President. Being your Vice-President over the past 3 years, I made some meaningful connections with the University leadership and I hope to bring that experience and knowledge to the role of president and to serve you and your interests. I am also very happy to share that your current Vice-Presidents are Chris O’Grady and Erin Walling. I am thrilled to be working with both of them and I know they will work hard for each of you.
I wish to thank Curt Larson for his leadership over the past 2 years, as well as his previous time as president. He made some incredible strides during his term of office and I hope to keep that momentum going.
I am also very grateful for our amazing staff members, Darcy Hryn Bird, Member Services Officer, and Angeline Hainstock, Administrative Assistant. These two are truly what makes ASPA who we are and I want to thank them for all of their work, support and guidance, not only to me and the executive, but to the entire membership. They are the ‘face’, heart and soul of ASPA and are always there for you, the members. So if you are looking for any information, have a question, or need assistance, I encourage each of you to reach out to them.
As we are now getting into the vacation season I want to take this opportunity to wish each and every one of you a wonderful and relaxing summer. I hope you are able to take some time to relax, unwind and spend time with family, friends, loved ones (including the furry ones!), or just take time for yourself, you DESERVE IT!
The ASPA membership has changed significantly over the years since we became an association, and quite a lot has changed even during the 4 + years that I have been on the executive. We have gone from less than 100 members at our beginning to now having just over 1460! These numbers gives us some good bargaining power as we go into the next round. Of course, membership numbers do naturally fluctuate over the course of the year with the hiring of seasonal and casual employees during the busier academic months but overall our numbers have stayed fairly strong.
Over the past year, we have lost some of our membership, and these were our friends and colleagues. While some of this was due to natural endings of terms, resignations, and retirements, far more were a result of layoffs. These numbers are concerning, and the entire executive shares this same concern. We have been told that many of these layoffs were as a result of budget cuts and re-structuring and even though some were temporary, a lot more were permanent. The University reserves the right to direct their workforce as they see fit, and while ASPA doesn’t have the jurisdiction to intervene on who, or how many, members get laid off, please know that for every layoff that occurs, an ASPA representative is always present to ensure that our
member’s rights are not violated with respect to the Collective Bargaining Agreement. There were a few cases where a violation did occur and ASPA filed a number of grievances with respect to wrongful layoffs. To qualify as a wrongful layoff this would mean the majority of the duties that these individuals did were in fact not eliminated and went to another ASPA member or another employee. If you feel this has happened in your unit, please notify Darcy in the ASPA office or any of the Presidents, in confidence, so we can look into it.
Our current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) expires in April 2022, and as per the CBA we will advise the University of our wish to bargain 3 months prior to the expiration of the agreement. As such, we will once again be reaching out to the membership this fall to those who may have an interest in being on the Bargaining Committee. Last round we provided some workshops to members who wanted to learn more about the bargaining process, either for just professional development or for those interested in being on the committee itself. We will offer these workshops again in the fall so if you are interested, please keep an eye out for that call.
The issue of supervisors has been around for quite some time.
For some background: In May of 2016, a provision of The Saskatchewan Employment Act came into effect deeming that supervisors cannot be in the same bargaining unit as non-supervisors. A few employers put applications before the Labour Relations Board (LRB) to have the supervisors pulled out of their union. An initial test case of this interpretation was heard, and the ruling came down that the law does not ‘apply retroactively’. This means that existing certification orders, such as the one ASPA holds, remain intact and unchanged. Effectively, the law cannot go back in time and change things and supervisors should remain the bargaining unit that they are part of. The law would only apply to new or altered certification orders.
In 2020 the University decided to continue with their application to have supervisors removed from the ASPA bargaining unit. The LRB decided to bring this item to another full hearing because the board felt their own prior decision was not correctly made. The Hearing was initially scheduled for September 2020. The Board chair denied a couple of unions intervenor status at this hearing and so they went to judicial review. The judge at this hearing said they in fact could be intervenors and as such were at the LRB hearing when it took place. The LRB decision came back, and it wasn’t in our favour. The LRB is now saying that the Act does apply retroactively, so ASPA with the support of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour and several unions throughout Saskatchewan, will be taking the LRB decision to Judicial Review. There are no timelines as to when this might happen.
Our volunteers on ASPA committees are tirelessly working for you and continue to provide some incredible vision and I want to express my thanks and gratitude to all. We are always looking for people to help us with social media, communications, finance, social justice, research, education, and training. So, if you have a certain skill set and expertise and would like to share some of your ideas and time, we would love to have you!
Here are few things ASPA committees are hard at work on:
- The Social Committee held a number of virtual events this year and they have had amazing attendances. The photo contest was a huge success as well as the virtual Tai Chi class, so please watch for more events like these over the summer. Thanks to all the members of this committee for providing us all with some much-needed distraction over the past year!
- Our Social Justice committee has continued to meet often and has brought forward many important discussion items and ideas that will have your ASPA executive and the membership as a whole, look more closely at how we view our world, ask questions like what does reconciliation mean, what does privilege look like, what can ASPA do to support social justice issues.
- Our Communications and Public Relations Committee have worked hard at bring you, the membership, information on what is happening in ASPA, the campus community, other labour movements, and highlighting our members. They will continue their work on bringing you more Brown Bag sessions, Did You Know’s, and articles of interests for the website and newsletters.
- The Research committee has been very active over the past year and have conducted a number of surveys that have been invaluable to the executive and to the Presidents as they meet with the University and bring forward issues on what means the most to you.
The president announced last week that beginning September 7th all students and staff (which includes faculty) will be required to show proof of at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. You ASPA executive highly encourages everyone who is able to get a vaccination to do so. We do recognize there are some of our members who are unable to get a vaccine (for various reasons) so we ask everyone to be respectful of your fellow members as we do not know everyone’s personal situation. If you experience any problems or have concerns with respect to the new vaccine requirements for campus, please reach out to our office to see how we can assist you.
APDA – Remote Work Expenses
The university announced the program to allow ASPA members to use up to one years’ worth of their APDA allocation ($1,100) to cover costs associated with setting up their home office. This program will continue into this current fiscal year with the next application deadline being from May 15-July 30, 2021, at 4:30 pm for payment Sept. 15, 2021.
Just about anything related to setting up your home office can be claimed under this program and no receipts are required (ie: laptops, desk, chair, sit-stand desk, lighting, or headsets). This is reimbursed on your pay cheque and is treated as a taxable benefit, so normal income tax and other deductions are taken off.
Further details about the program and application process are available in the Working Remotely channel in PAWS, under Home Work Space.
The university has released their Remote Work Request and Proposal agreement process. This mostly applies once the pandemic has ended, but it is available now. For those members who feel some or all of their jobs can be done remotely on a regular and ongoing bases once we return to campus, I encourage all of you to start a dialogue with your supervisors now on what this might look like for you and your units. If you have any questions or feel your request has been unreasonably denied, please contact the ASPA office to see if we may be able to assist in some way. The university has the right to approve or reject any of these applications, but they seem to be indicating that there will be greater opportunities for this to happen than might have occurred in the past, and are encouraging colleges and administrative units to look at these options carefully.
Return To Campus
We have been told the plan to start the transition will begin around August 3rd, and there will be a schedule on which buildings will be opened and when so the occupants can begin the return to campus. Please watch for notices on when your building will be available. The hope is to have those who are coming back to campus this fall to be in place by around September 3rd.
LaVina Watts, ASAP President (2021 – 2022)