Unit 3 COVID-19 Update

Brad WalchukUncategorized

Dear Postdocs,

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.

Please note, however, that while classes are cancelled, the university is otherwise opened. Paradoxically, the Employer expects non-teaching staff to continue to attend work.

Your safety is our first priority. We recommend you make personal decisions that are consistent with your sense of well-being and current health. Please note that your Collective Agreement affords you “10 paid business days per appointment year, or a pro-rated portion equivalent thereof for any portion of an employee’s appointment that is less than 12 months and for employees holding partial appointments.” For clarity, please be advised that “Such days are to be utilized for absences due to personal illness or injury. When an employee utilizes such day(s) they must include such days on the weekly hours of work report given to their Department Administrator. There will be no carry-forward of sick days from one appointment year to the next and there will be no cash payout of unused sick days.”

Please note that “in the event that an employee takes a leave of greater than 5 consecutive business days, the employment supervisor can require a doctor’s note to substantiate the employee’s absence subject to 21.03(a).” To be absolutely clear, we feel that doctor’s notes are antiquated, a burden to an overstretched and underfunded health care system, and put you in harm’s way. Of course, if (self)quarantined, they are not an option in that case. That said, “if requested, an employee must provide medical documentation supporting the absence to their employment supervisor that includes confirmation of an in-person assessment by a physician; workplace restrictions, if any; and a return to work or reassessment date. Where the requested medical documentation includes the foregoing information, the Employer will, to a maximum of $50.00, reimburse the Employee 50% of the cost of the first medical documentation requested for each period of absence due to personal illness or injury regardless of length.”

We would strongly encourage you to reach out to your supervisor to discuss the possibility of work-from-home arrangements and other amendments to your typical work.

If you feel that attending work represents a clear and imminent danger to your health, please let us know.

As it pertains to the next few weeks with public elementary schools closed, our Postdoctoral Support Fund has recently been expanded to include support for childcare. A separate email to this effect will follow in the coming days.

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. Finally, we would like to 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.