Messages from WUFA:
May 28, 2020
I’m writing to update you on WUFA’s recent activities as we work through the many challenges posed to our rights by the employer response to the COVID-19 crisis.
As you are all too well aware, the crisis initially necessitated emergency changes to how the University does business. WUFA members, knowing how important education is to our students and their future, responded heroically to the challenge of quickly moving all of our work to a virtual model with which few of us had any previous experience.
It has since become clear that while the local health situation has stabilized, the impact of the crisis is ongoing and the end is not in sight. Our Collective Agreement grants us significant rights with respect to teaching, research, service, and professional activity that WUFA is concerned are inconsistent with the initial response to the pandemic.
WUFA has invited the employer to work with us to develop a letter of understanding that would address the many concerns WUFA members have brought forward. Over four weeks of discussions, the employer has repeatedly refused to discuss our proposals in detail and have brought nothing to the table. Discussions with the employer will continue — WUFA is always willing to listen and consider solutions — but at this point, it is clear talks have stalled.
Our approach to these discussions has been based around four basic principles:
- the employer must provide adequate support for teaching and other WUFA work activities,
- changes to workload necessitated by the crisis must be reasonable and fair,
- there can be no negative career impacts on members as a result of the response to the crisis, and
- our rights under the Collective Agreement must be respected and upheld.
Adequate support for teaching and other work
Article 8 of our Collective Agreement requires the employer to provide adequate resources to support you in your work. These provisions need some adaptation to the current circumstances, but the employer must continue to provide all necessary supports to WUFA members to do our jobs. For instructors in particular, that means software to support both synchronous and asynchronous teaching and invigilation software, to be used at your discretion. I would also remind members who teach that Article 5 of our CA guarantees the right “to order the course content and employ the teaching methodology appropriate to the subject matter and learning outcomes, consistent with academic freedom as set forth in Article 10.”
Article 5 also lays out what work can be assigned to full-time members and the appropriate process for doing so. Article 5 provisions ensure that once your workload has been assigned, it cannot be increased or otherwise changed without your consent. For instructors, Article 5 gives you the right to select and use teaching materials and instructional techniques. Workload assignment functions differently for sessional members, of course; however, there are some protections in Articles 54 and 55, and WUFA recognizes the conversion of classes to online formats places a disproportionate burden on precariously employed members. The Article 5 provisions on rights in respect of teaching apply equally to sessional and tenure-track instructors.
No negative career impacts
WUFA believes quite strongly that there should be no negative career impacts for members as a result of the employer’s COVID-19 response, and to the extent that negative career impacts are unavoidable, they must be mitigated as much as possible. For example, Article 12 allows members on probationary appointments to request an extension of their probationary period for medical or other exceptional circumstances; however, it is WUFA’s view that the COVID-19 crisis is sufficiently serious that all probationary members should be permitted to extend the probationary period at their discretion. Similar accommodations are needed to ensure the fairness of promotion processes, performance reviews, sabbaticals and other leaves, and the role of SET scores in instructor evaluation.
Collective Agreement rights
The CA includes a number of other provisions that are under stress due to the employer’s response to COVID-19. Your academic freedom and intellectual property rights have not changed in any way, but new ways of working create challenges. For instructors, please rest assured that the Collective Agreement ensures you retain intellectual property ownership of all class and lecture materials developed in the delivery of online teaching – referred to in the CA as “alternative learning technologies”. The Collective Agreement also safeguards your rights to sick leave, accommodation, privacy, and a safe and healthy workplace.
The above is intended to highlight significant challenges to our terms and conditions of employment arising from the response to COVID-19, but it is not exhaustive. Clearly, it is in the best interest of the University as a whole for WUFA and the employer to resolve, formally, the many difficult challenges to our rights that are posed by the response to the crisis.
I would encourage you, if you have not done so recently, to re-read those parts of the Collective Agreement most relevant to you. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact WUFA (email@example.com). Our Collective Agreement remains fully in force despite the current situation. If you believe the Collective Agreement is being violated by the employer, let us know immediately.
President, Windsor University Faculty Association
April 8, 2020
The WUFA office on campus (Kerr House) is closed; however, WUFA’s operations continue online. The WUFA Executive Committee meets regularly and looks after the day-to-day business of WUFA. WUFA Staff are working from their homes during normal business hours, from Monday to Friday (9am – 4:30pm).
As we navigate through this temporary “new normal”, please be assured that WUFA is here for you. WUFA support remains available for any and all issues arising from the terms and conditions of your employment.
Meetings with the Employer
If you are called to an online or phone meeting with your Dean (or anyone from Administration), you have the right to WUFA representation at that meeting. Please contact that WUFA office as soon as possible and we will help find an available WUFA representative, from another unit on campus, who will act as your support person and accompany you to the virtual meeting.
WUFA and the University have agreed to take a grievance moratorium in light of the COVID-pandemic. As such, all outstanding grievance matters are on hold until further notice (arbitration matters are exceptions to the moratorium). Please do not hesitate to contact WUFA at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any grievance-related concerns over the moratorium period. Should any new grievance issues arise during the moratorium period, their clock will start when the University and WUFA returns to their normal working schedule.
WUFA Faculty Council and WUFA Executive Committee continue to hold regular meetings to look after the day-to-day operations of the Faculty Association. Furthermore, WUFA is represented on the University's Pandemic Planning Committee to protect your interests and defend members' rights in the planning process during this difficult time.
If you have any questions or would like bring forward an issue to WUFA’s leaders, please email WUFA at email@example.com or contact your WUFA Faculty Council representative; please click here to see the list of WUFA Faculty Council members in your area.
Lastly, please visit the WUFA website www.wufa.ca for more information and helpful resources related to COVID-19.
WUFA is here for you, and we wish everyone the best during this difficult time. Stay safe.
Peter Zimmerman, President
Windsor University Faculty Association (WUFA)
April 6, 2020
As you may be aware, the student unions have initiated a petition requesting greater flexibility in grading options than those that have been announced by the Provost. Please see the Statement from UWSA President Jeremiah Bowers for more information.
WUFA has not taken a position in support of the petition. There are a number of reasons why our Executive elected not to support the petition, one of which is grounded in academic freedom. It is WUFA’s position that course instructors are best positioned to determine whether additional grading options are appropriate and have the academic freedom right to implement them when appropriate. Nevertheless, keeping in mind the heightened levels of anxiety and stress that all of us are under and the additional workload created by the move to online instruction, please give some thought to UWSA’s concerns and, only where it is academically appropriate to the course(s) you are teaching, please consider using your academic freedom to provide other grading options to students.
President, Windsor University Faculty Association
March 16, 2020
I’m writing on behalf of the Faculty Association to let you know we are doing our best to assist the University administration in working through the challenges posed by COVID-19. In doing so, we continue to advocate for and defend our members’ rights.
As members are aware, all classes have been cancelled and alternative delivery methods are being established. It is essential that WUFA members do their best to accommodate this new, temporary reality. There are unquestionably going to be challenges arising from the transition. It is WUFA’s firm position that after the crisis has passed, students will return to the classroom — but we have no way of knowing when that can happen.
This does not mean that the crisis allows our employer to override our rights, but we are dealing with unprecedented events. In conversations I have had with senior administrators, I believe they are attempting to manage the crisis in good faith. However, if you have concerns regarding your rights as a WUFA member, please contact the Association at firstname.lastname@example.org for advice.
Finally, please keep in mind the advice from health authorities to practice social distancing. If you must meet with students or colleagues, take whatever precautions you can to limit the potential spread of infection.
All the best,
Peter Zimmerman, WUFA President
March 13, 2020
The Windsor University Faculty Association (WUFA) is monitoring and providing input into actions that the University may need to undertake to protect the health and safety of everyone in light of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic. We also have a responsibility to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on members and the Association staff to the extent it is possible.
To that end, the WUFA office will close effective the end of the work day, March 13, 2020, until further notice. WUFA’s Executive Committee will continue to manage WUFA’s day to day business using email and telephone communications during the closure. If you require assistance from the Association during this time, please email your concerns to email@example.com for further instruction.
University President Gordon recently announced that the University has established a Pandemic Planning Committee which meets ergularly to review all aspects of how to minimize risks in the University communicty and support the development of emergency preparedness strategies going forward. WUFA is represented on that Committee to protect your interests in the planning process.
Please be aware that the office closure may also affect WUFA governance processes. For example, there may be delays in necessary governance processes including but not limited to Executive Committee elections or general membership meetings. In the event that such a governance situation arises, the Executive will determine the appropriate course of action consistent with our constitution to the extent possible.
I wish you all the best during this difficult time.
President, Windsor University Faculty Association