CUPE 3906 Unit 1 Return to Campus Priorities

CUPE 3906 Unit 1 Return to Campus Priorities

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CUPE 3906 started this petition to McMaster University

McMaster University is preparing for a partial return to campus for the Fall 2021 semester. CUPE 3906 has spent months consulting its unit 1 members to create our 12 Return to Campus priorities so that we can ensure the return to campus is safe and equitable for all. We have also included some priorities that reflect the need for our TAs to be compensated for all of the hard work they have done during the pandemic to keep McMaster working. CUPE 3906 members, please sign onto this petition so that we know we have your support in making McMaster a better place to work and learn!

CUPE 3906 Unit 1 Return to Campus Priorities 

1.      A choice for all workers and students on whether to return to in person learning or not: No one should be forced to work in person if they do not feel safe. If any worker decides not to return to in person learning in Fall 2021 then they should be provided the same number of hours of work as they would have worked otherwise. Online learning should continue in at least some capacity in Fall 2021. No worker should be penalized in any way for choosing to work remotely. The safety of our members is not negotiable.

2.      Vaccine distribution on campus: Everyone who wants the vaccine should be able to get it. We are only safe if we get as many people as possible vaccinated. If all members of the McMaster community who want the vaccine are able to get it, we can limit the spread of the virus. The best way to ensure easy access to the vaccine for everyone on campus is for McMaster to become a vaccine distribution centre. This way, students and workers can get the vaccine on campus. The employer must also make every possible effort to promote the vaccine to students, especially international students as they may be unaware that they can get the vaccine.

3.      Distribution of masks on campus: masks must be made readily available on campus for all workers and students. Without everyone wearing a mask in public spaces we cannot stop the spread of covid-19.

4.      Clarity on how masks will be enforced: while obviously masks are essential, we need clarity on how they will be enforced. TAs and instructors should not have to enforce mask mandates. That is not our job. However, CUPE 3906 is concerned about the potential for increased securitization of our campus. We do not want police to be constantly harassing our students, especially those who are racialized and experiencing mental health related issues.

5.      Social distancing measures that match government guidelines across campus.

6.      Significantly reduced class sizes for in person lectures, labs, and tutorials.

7.      Upgrading the HVAC/ air circulation: many work spaces at McMaster are in small rooms such as the basements of Togo Salmon Hall and others. The air condition system needs to be upgraded to ensure that the virus does not spread. It is good that McMaster has announced it will be putting in “high standard air filters”. CUPE 3906 will be checking our workplaces to ensure that these filters are in every workplace where air recirculation occurs.

8.      Reimbursement for office equipment purchased to work from home: over the past year, most TAs have had to set up home offices with almost no support from the employer. The current procurement system does not work as it is difficult to get approved to get equipment. Furthermore, the equipment is the property of the employer. A better model is that used at the  University of Toronto, where their TAs receive a $500 dollar stipend each year to spend on office equipment.

9.     More financial supports for undergrads: Like the rest of us, undergraduate students have had a very difficult year. Many of them lost their jobs. Many of them had to support family members who lost their jobs. The pandemic was incredibly stressful for our students. W e have seen many of them struggle with mental health issues throughout this pandemic. McMaster needs to provide more financial support for undergraduate students in the form of grants. 

10.  Better mental health supports for TAs: this past year has been incredibly difficult for our members, as we have been separated from our friends, families, and co-workers. Many of our members have found the current mental health supports for our TAs insufficient. Many of our members want regular counselling with a mental health professional. The employer has only provided our members with a phone number to call to talk to a councillor. While this was an important first step won by CUPE 3906 through collective bargaining, these phone services often have long wait times and are not the same as regular sessions with the same councillor. If the employer really does care about our mental health, they have to do more to connect our members to consistent and long-term counselling.

11.  5 years Guaranteed of TA work for all PhD students and a 6th year of TA work for those who lost a year of research due to the pandemic: During the pandemic, many of our TAs were unable to conduct their research. All PhD students need at least 5 years of funding in the form of TA work. It is not possible to pay our expenses and do our research without it. Many of our TAs also lost a year of research as much of the research our members conduct could not happen during the pandemic. TAs who lost a year of funding need to be provided a 6th year of funding in the form of TA work.

12.   Permanent Pay Increase for all TAs: the cost of living in Hamilton is skyrocketing. Housing, medication, and many other expenses are becoming less and less affordable. The pay of our TAs has not kept up with inflation for several years. TAs had to do a lot of extra work to make this year happen for McMaster. We had to learn to teach online without any training. We had to do hours of extra marking due to the challenges of online learning. We had to teach and learn in an unprecedented situation. Without TAs grading all of the assignments, papers, mid terms, labs, and exams, McMaster could not have had a Fall 2020 or a Winter 2021 semester. No one else has the knowledge or the time to mark the thousands of assignments that our TAs do. The very least we are owed from our employer is a permanent pay increase for all TAs to compensate us for all of the sacrifices we have had to make for this employer over the past year. 

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