Spring term underway, looking to the Fall

It's a beautiful, warm Friday as I write this.  We seem to have finally fully shaken the cold weather.  I hope everyone is able to get out and responsibly enjoy this wonderful weather.

This week, many of our staff were able to get out and participate in a very important show of solidarity in Kitchener. We have all watched events unfold in the U.S. and we recognize that here in Canada, we also have a history of anti-Black racism that informs our culture including our education system and institutions of higher learning. We appreciate the statement that President Hamdullahpur sent out to our community, but we know that we all have a lot more work to do to combat racism in all its forms. We can make sure we are all better informed to understand the issues and support the Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) folks at the University of Waterloo. One way could be to attend The Human Rights, Equity and Inclusion Office training session EQ201 Anti-Racism Workshop. Remember that the UWSA offers support and advocacy services if they are needed, and we are knowledgeable about supports and community resources if required.

The past month has been very busy with the start of the Spring term.  Major decisions have been announced regarding the Fall term.  The fact that the Fall will be primarily online, but allow for small in-person classes if possible.   We had the President's Town Hall and the Board of Governors' meeting.  All of these have pointed to the fact that everyone of us at the University is doing our best to continue operating and delivering quality education.  

We are grateful that the Administration is emphasizing the importance of maintaining our 2,500 permanent staff as a top priority.  We also recognize that our contract staff are more vulnerable, since any renewals need special approval.  Managers are working with their departments to make the business case for renewing contracts where possible in order to keep these important members of our organization.

As we slowly begin the process of returning to work, we know that guidelines are being developed to aid with that process.  We know that employees have a variety of feelings regarding this prospect.  Some are eager to return, others are more cautious.  Our understanding is that this will be done carefully and fully following Public Health guidelines.  From the President's Town Hall, the message is that Health and Safety will be the top priority and that only "the right people, at the right time and the right way to maintain our core mission".

In order to get a better understanding of our staff's concerns, our UWSA Communication & Membership Committee released a survey to hear their top issues.  We are very pleased to announce that we received over 730 responses!  That is an excellent response rate.  The committee is currently going through the results and we hope to announce those soon.

We continue to discuss with the Administration the concerns that staff have with dealing with families at home while trying to do their job.  We were pleased to learn at our recent Staff Relations Committee where we raised this topic, that Human Resources is working with multiple departments to develop some guidelines for staff and managers.  We'd like to highlight an article from the School of Accounting and Finance that highlights these very issues from the perspective of one of our members, Miljana Prelic.  It is entitled "Managing the new normal: Working from home (WFH)

Another milestone in the past month is that our salary increases did go through.  Again, we are so grateful that this has been able to proceed as planned.  With this last salary increase, that will mark the end of our previous 3-year agreement.  This means that will begin the process of negotiating the terms of our next year or more of salary arrangements.  This will be done in our Provost's Advisory Committee on Staff Compensation.  If you have thoughts or suggestions about our upcoming discussions, please contact any of the members listed.

Some have asked whether the UWSA has been as busy lately with so many staff working at home.  I can assure you that we are busier than ever!  Aside from the kinds of cases we typically handle in a year, we also have a much greater influx of questions and concerns related to the pandemic situation.  So this is definitely keeping us busy!  We do appreciate all of the messages of support we have received from our members during this time.

We have an important event coming up on Thursday June 11th.  Area Rep leaders have invited the Provost, Dr. James Rush, back to our Area Reps meeting where he will be available to answer your questions and concerns.  This meeting is open to all members of the UWSA, not just Area Reps, so look for the invitation in your email.  If you have a question you would like to pose, it would be appreciated if you can forward it to our Area Reps Chair, Lisa Habel.

We would like to congratulate one of our former UWSA Directors, Lynn Judge, who has now been elected as the new President of the University of Waterloo Retirees Association.  Welcome Lynn!

Finally, we wonder how some of you may be connecting with friends and loved ones recreationally during these socially distant times.  Back in late March, we asked about what online activities people have discovered to connect.  Here are some of the ones we've learned about, and you may wish to try:

Euchre (and other card games): https://www.trickstercards.com/game/
Codenames: https://www.horsepaste.com/
Various party games: https://www.jackboxgames.com/
Board games: https://boardgamearena.com/
Found some other ones you'd like to share?  Let us know!

Your UWSA team,  

Lawrence Folland, President, Cell: 226-218-1822, lfolland@uwaterloo.ca 
Gail Spencer, Executive Manager, gspencer@uwaterloo.ca 
Your UWSA Directors
General mailbox, uwsa@uwaterloo.ca