Unit 2 COVID-19 Update

Brad WalchukUncategorized

Dear Sessionals,

By now, you’re likely aware of McMaster’s decision to cancel classes. Specifically, McMaster has determined that all in-person classes for undergraduate and graduate students will end at the end of the day Friday March 13th and that no in-person exams will be held at the end of this term. We applaud McMaster for the decision to put the safety of students and staff at the forefront.

We are sending this email to you in your capacity as an employee. We encourage you to reach out to your Chair, Director, or Dean to confirm next steps for how you expect to finish the balance of the semester. The Employer has noted that instructors are asked “to work with their Chairs, Directors and Deans to be prepared to communicate with students by Wednesday, March 18th to let them know how the remainder of their courses will be managed and grades assessed so that they can complete their credits within the normal timeframe of the winter term. These solutions will vary from course to course.”

Online teaching is one possible option, but by no means is it required or mandatory and it may not be applicable in all classes. Article 19.04 of your Collective Agreement states that “The Employer will not, without training, require an employee to use technological skills other than those agreed to at the time of hiring.” In any situation, we strongly recommend, however, that you do not make any alternative in-person arrangements with students.

We do not foresee any loss of pay as all work should be restructured in a way that it can easily be made up. In some instances, material can be put on Avenue to Learn, but in other cases focusing on the final assignment may be more appropriate, especially if your final classes are simply provided material for a now non-existent in person examination. You know your class and your students the best; the Employer must be reasonable with your proposals and best judgement.

For Hourly Rated Sessional Music Instructors, we would recommend you check in with your supervisor. While alternative arrangements may be made, you should not be teaching after April 17th, nor should you be required to move teaching offsite. In the event that work cannot be reasonably be made up, you should not experience a reduction in income. Please let us know if something to the contrary is suggested.

A separate post will be forthcoming for MELD Sessionals.

For those of you with TAs, you are likely to reallocate many of their remaining tasks. In some instances, tasks may be cancelled altogether. Normally, any changes to TA duties require a signed amendment to their Hours of Work forms; given these exceptional circumstances, we recognize this may not be feasible. In any situation in which TA expectations are changed from the original Hours of Work form, you should endeavor to provide them with clear instructions (written is preferred). TAs will be encouraged to log their hours. In no situation can TAs pay be reduced, even if work expectations are. Likewise, you cannot assign additional hours without the approval of your Chair or Director.

If your Chair or Director instructs you to restructure work in a way that you feel is not reasonable, please let us know. If you feel additional hours are required in light of the circumstances, please let us know. Under no circumstance should you be expected to perform any additional work over what you were originally allocated without proper compensation. Finally, you must be paid for any tasks that you are no longer expected to do. The cancellation of classes should not lead to any loss of income.

Article 18.01 of your Collective Agreement provides you with unplanned leave, which may be necessary depending upon your personal and familial circumstance. The agreement notes that “In the event that an employee requires an unplanned leave it is the responsibility of the employee to both advise their Supervisor and to make up for any missed class and lost time that was missed. When making up the class(es) is a practical impossibility, an alternate arrangement, approved by the Supervisor, will be made.”

Please note that each course – and perhaps even each section of a course – is likely to be different. We recognize that a one-size-fits-all solution is not possible in such a situation.

If you have any other questions, please let us know. Please note, however, that we have a large volume of emails and a response may be delayed. We will prioritize emergent situations. We would like recognize that McMaster Human Resources has been in regular contact with your Union. We appreciate the transparency and information that they’ve provided to us.

Finally, please make use of the Employee Family Assistance Program if you are experiencing additional stress, anxiety, or any issues related to your mental health. A flyer outlining the program can be found here. You can access the program directly by visiting https://homeweb.ca/.