Wrapping up my term, passing the baton!

First, I would like to thank all of our members for your support during my term as President.  My term has ended and I now pass the baton onto Kathy Becker who, I believe, will be a strong champion for staff!  

I would also like to thank the team I had in the UWSA Board of Directors and our UWSA Staff.  They help support all of our initiatives in so many ways.  A very dedicated and enthusiastic bunch of people!

It has been a little while since I did an update, so I wanted to do this before I fully move back into my role as an IT Manager in Computer Science.  It has certainly been a busy summer and start of the Fall term.  The UWSA has been working with the administration on a wide variety of issues.

Top of mind has been the Return to Work process.  Staff are being asked to come back on campus for some in-person tasks.  Each department developed their own return to work strategy.  Staff should be able to have an opportunity to view those documents so that they know what safety precautions are in place and understand their obligations when working on campus.  If you haven't seen such a document, please contact your supervisor or department head.

Staff have been asking about expenses when working from home and we have been discussing that with HR, Finance and other senior administrators.  Recently an announcement was provided that will hopefully add some clarity.  If you have not yet seen it, you may check the Finance webpage entitled Expenses Supporting Remote Work In general, it is my understanding that the University will issue a T2200 form that will indicate staff were required to work from home.

Another issue that I have heard from a lot of staff about is that of the challenges of being a caregiver while trying to do your work at home.  Whether this be those with children at home, or those taking care of aging parents.  In July I attended a session entitled "The struggle of the caregiver - Is your workplace supportive?".  This was a very informative session.  One thing I learned - the most common group that caregivers primarily give care is that of aging parents.  I experienced this myself as my mother was in hospital for four months and then was home for a couple weeks before she passed away in September.  I understand how difficult it can be to work while handling these issues.  Covid has only intensified these issues.  One thing that was clear is that a supportive workplace is very important in the health of employees who are caregivers.  We are currently working on an Accommodation Policy (Policy 57) that will address these issues.  A suggestion that came out of that session was the creation of an Employee Resource Group to allow caregivers to benefit from support and resources shared by other caregivers.

You will have recently seen (November 12) an update from the Provost about the 2020 Performance Appraisals (PA) for staff.  We had raised the issue of how PAs would be done given the circumstances of the pandemic.  We noted that faculty would be using a modified process and requested a similar accommodation for staff.  This is to avoid any negative outcomes due to circumstances beyond staff (or manager) control while retaining an ability to recognize outstanding work where applicable.  We hope that the proposed process is fair and reasonable.  Feel free to contact us if you have any feedback, suggestions or concerns.

We have begun the process of salary negotiations with the University.  While we are working under the legislative restriction of Bill 124, which limits base salary increases to 1% in each of the next three years, we are looking at other items of the workplace that will be of benefit to staff.  Amongst those possibilities could be a change to our pay cycle.  We ran a survey over the summer to gauge staff interest in changing from the current monthly pay cycle, and there is some indication of interest in reviewing pay frequency.

We also published the final results from COVID Campus Climate Survey we ran in May.  This has helped guide some of our discussions with the administration.  We intend to run a follow-up survey in the next few months to see how staff are feeling as we continue working in these pandemic conditions - both for those working primarily at home and those who are on-campus.

Over the past couple of years, the UWSA Board has been reviewing our own governance structures and looking at how we can better govern ourselves and provide better oversight and guidance for the organization.  To that end, we have decided to create a new officer role on the Board, which will be the Chair of the Board.  The Chair will be responsible for supporting the Board: setting the agenda, requesting reports and generally providing oversight of the running of the Board.  This position will be selected from the existing Directors, just as we currently do with the Secretary and Treasurer.  We will be working on a revised draft of the Constitution to bring to the membership for approval.

As I move into my role as Past-President, I will continue being involved in a number of these initiatives.  Again, I thank you all for your support.  It has been an honour and a privilege to serve as your President through the 2019-2020 year.

Lawrence

Your UWSA team:

Kathy Becker, President, kabecker@uwaterloo.ca
Gail Spencer, Executive Manager, gspencer@uwaterloo.ca 
Catherine Bolger, Communications and Administrative Coordinator, lbolger@uwaterloo.ca
Your UWSA Directors
General mailbox, uwsa@uwaterloo.ca

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