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U of T extends pay continuity policy to on-campus workers, in light of COVID-19 pandemic

Workers will be paid until April 5 — little indication of what comes next
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IRIS DENG/THE VARSITY
IRIS DENG/THE VARSITY

Effective March 14 and ending April 5, U of T will maintain a pay continuity policy, which will ensure that people who work on campus will continue to be paid regular wages. U of T has not revealed whether this policy will extend past April 5, potentially leaving some students who work on campus without a source of income. The Varsity heard from two such students about how these changes have affected them.

The university informed employees on March 14 that it would continue to pay staff in the event of cancellations. The official policy on pay continuity was released on March 18.

This policy includes all employees, whether they work on a term, temporary, or casual basis. The policy instructs workers to take additional paid sick days if they contract COVID-19, regardless of whether they have already used all their preappointed sick days.

Employees who receive salaries from the university will continue to be paid the same amount. Those who are paid hourly will be paid according to either their scheduled shifts or their average weekly wages — whichever is greater. Employees are expected to continue their work remotely, if possible, and otherwise may be assigned new work.

One anonymous student who works at Hart House, along with other on-campus jobs, told The Varsity that she is continuing to be paid for the time being, despite campus buildings being closed. Hart House administration sent an email on March 16 saying that employees would continue to be paid until April 2. She believes that, at the time of the email, U of T expected to reopen facilities soon after that deadline.

Her pay at Hart House and her other on-campus jobs is based on monthly hours that she and other employees decided on before the campus closures began. In the case of her Hart House job, the shifts were decided on Microsoft Teams, and employees will continue to be paid for the hours they signed up for, though they are not required to do any work.

This was not clear to all employees early on. In one case, an employee was unable to attend her shift in person, so she gave it to someone else. Her coworker is now being paid for those hours even though neither of them worked the shift. “I don’t like how no one knows what’s going on,” she said.

Thomas Siddall, a third-year student in international relations and contemporary Asian studies, works as a duty tech at Gerstein Library and a computer access facility assistant at Robarts Library. They are still being paid wages from both jobs, though the university has shut down both Gerstein and Robarts.

As a low-income student, Siddall relies on these jobs to pay bills. They feel that, given the university’s vast resources, U of T should be doing more to help on-campus workers.

The university can and should be refunding students’ tuition, residence fees, [remitting] payments to student casual workers — full-time staff still receive a salary — and [ensuring] that students will be… able to return to university,” said Siddall.

Siddall feels that student employees are being left out of the loop purposefully. For instance, full-time staff members received an email informing them of changes to the hours at Gerstein, while casual workers did not.

Both Siddall and the anonymous Hart House employee have received contracts for work over the summer, though it is unclear whether or not U of T will need its summer workers. 

The university has not yet responded to The Varsity’s request for comment.

Disclosure: Siddall served as a Victoria College Director for the University of Toronto Students’ Union until their resignation earlier this year.