Looking for a silver lining? Here are three!

Hello UWSA members!

February is known for unpredictable weather, and this year seems to be no exception. We’ve had big-snow days and lots of grey days peppered with some lovely bright and sunshiny ones. Throughout the month, I’ve been obsessively planning my garden and ordering far too many seeds. But looking ahead to warmer days is helping me manage the thrum of anxiety about how this is all going to turn out. I think about my summer garden and focus on the silver linings – and I don’t have to look far to see some significant silver linings.

We’ve been working on your behalf in support of updates to policies, procedures and benefits. These include improvements to the staff performance appraisal process, work on an updated Policy 14 – Pregnancy and Parental Leave (including Adoption), and updates to our extended health benefits via the Holistic Benefits Working Group. Read on for an update on these three areas.

Pregnancy and Parental Leave: Policy 14 Getting an Update?

In my last post, I thanked you for your engagement in the consultation process for the revised Policy 14 – Pregnancy and Parental Leaves (including Adoption). The UWSA reviewed your feedback and crafted a position statement that we shared with the Policy Development Committee for Policy 14 (P14 PDC). This document outlined revisions we hoped to see as the Policy 14 draft moves through the review process. The Chair, Moira Glerum, and one of our Staff Representatives, Kathleen St Laurent, attended the February 8 Staff Relations Committee (SRC) meeting as guests and proposed revisions based on our requests.

For more detail on the policy review process, check out Policy 1 – Initiation and Review of University Policies. But basically, because Policy 14 is a class F/S policy, the Faculty Relations Committee (FRC) has also been working through this process with the P14 PDC. We anticipate learning in the very near future whether both groups (Staff through SRC and Faculty through FRC) support the recommendations of the P14 PDC. If the recommendations are supported, we hope to see the recommended policy going forward to the April meeting of the UW Board of Governors for an official decision.

Performance Appraisals – 2020 and Beyond!

We heard from a few members who had some confusion about the 2020 Performance Appraisal Process. We hope that the updates made to the 2020 Performance Appraisal Process site for staff helped clear things up, but if you still have questions, get in touch and we’ll do our best to help.

Beyond the 2020 process, the Provost’s Advisory Committee on Staff Compensation (PACSC) has been receiving regular updates from the Performance Appraisal System Review Working Group. This working group was established through our 2018-2021 Compensation Agreement (PDF) in response to the dissatisfaction many of our members have expressed about the current Performance Appraisal system. You may have read the January 26, 2021 memo shared on behalf of PACSC, which gave a high level overview of the review process to date. And some of you attended the open session of the February 8, 2021 Staff Relations Committee (SRC) meeting where the Working Group outlined the review process in a bit more detail. Now that the review process is complete, we look forward to continuing to work on your behalf on the next steps in this process, and we will share more details as they become available.

Holistic Benefits Working Group: Changes to our Benefit Plan

The Holistic Benefits Working Group (HBWG) was established by the Pension & Benefits Committee in 2018 to review the existing UW benefit plan. They were tasked with finding improvements without any additional funds being provided – no easy task! They worked with a consultant who surveyed UW employees, undertook related background research, and laid out options that aligned with what they learned from employee input.

The HBWG then held a series of information sessions to present the recommendations being put forward and to answer your questions. These sessions were the final steps in the process before the recommendations went to the February 2, 2021 meeting of the Board of Governors, where a motion was approved to amend the UW Benefit Plan as recommended, to take effect May 1, 2021. Human Resources will now carry out the work of implementing the amendments and updating related messaging to ensure it’s up to date with the amended plan.

The revised UW Benefit Plan is the culmination of efforts by UW staff, faculty, and retirees working on behalf of UW employees to improve our overall working conditions. I want to extend a huge thank you to the members of this committee for their hard work and dedication.

I attended the first HBWG information session, and the absence of vision care was a concern that was voiced by many. It’s a concern we’ve heard before, and I understand the frustration, but I believe the HBWG worked very hard to arrive at the best possible recommendation given the constraints they were operating under. So I want to take a few lines to restate this challenge:

  1. no additional funding was available to pay for the addition of vision care benefits for two reasons:
    1. survey results showed that UW members were not generally in favour of contributing funds to pay for improved coverages (such as the addition of vision care)
    2. no additional contributions were available from UW
  2. adding vision care benefits would require a large financial increase to the benefit plan for two reasons:
    1. survey results showed that UW members were not generally in favour of removing other coverages to subsidize vision care
    2. many people require glasses or contacts, so the cost to add this benefit would be high

Without access to any additional funds, the addition of vision care just wasn’t possible, no matter how hard the HBWG tried to squeeze it in. And I am confident that they tried. I agree that our members need vision care benefits, and while it wasn’t possible through this specific benefit review activity, we’ll keep working toward that goal.

To sum things up, I would like to say a final word of thanks to the members of the P14 PDC and the HBWG. I’m grateful for the care and concern each member applied to these complex, multi-year processes. I’d also like to take a moment to thank each of you, our hardworking members. These times are tough, and you’re doing your part to keep the university running. You’re showing up, some remotely and some on campus, to make sure our students can keep working toward their academic goals. You’re treating others with kindness and compassion, even though you may be nearing your wit’s end. And you’re remaining engaged with your UWSA. For all of this, I thank you.backyard in spring

My gardens & beeyard in the summer of 2020. I’m looking forward to getting garden dirt under my nails once again!

I welcome your feedback and questions on any of these topics - or any other. The UWSA exists to serve the interests of staff, so make your interests known. And as the days grow longer and we inch toward spring, I hope you’re able to spot some silver linings of your own. And if you’re a gardener like me, and you find yourself with too many seeds, feel free to get in touch - maybe we can arrange a swap!
Thanks for reading,