AAPS Memo to Members: Follow-up to our UBC reopening memo and an opportunity to share your concerns

This memo was emailed to AAPS members on August 20, 2021. If you are an AAPS member and did not receive the memo, please let us know.

 

Dear AAPS Members,

I am writing to follow up on my message that was emailed to you on Monday, August 9, 2021 regarding returning to your physical worksites.

Since my last message, information has come to light that seems to point to the Horgan government preventing post-secondary institutions from establishing COVID-related health and safety protocols that exceed the government’s Return to Campus Guidelines.

I am basing this information on an August 13, 2021 op-ed piece in the Victoria Times Colonist that refers to communication from BC’s Deputy Minister of Advanced Education informing institutions that they may not exceed the Guidelines.

I would also note that UBC President Ono has publicly declared his support for mandatory vaccinations and a mask mandate at UBC, and his public advocacy is much appreciated.

We remain unclear as to why the Province appears to be restricting post-secondary institutions from working with their employee groups to determine health and safety protocols appropriate for our workplaces. To learn more about the government’s motivation and whether, when the decision was made, the Province considered issues like the possible rapid spread of the Delta variant, AAPS has filed an additional Freedom of Information Request with the Province.

In that request, we are seeking the following:

  1. Any correspondence from Deputy Minister Shannon Baskerville, Deputy Minister of Advanced Education, to post-secondary institutions on July 29, 2021, indicating that implementing mandatory vaccination without Provincial Health Office approval would contravene the Province’s Return to Campus guidelines [referred to hereinafter as The Guidelines;]
  2. Any correspondence to Ms. Baskerville from the Minister of Advanced Education, Provincial Health Office, the Ministry of Health, or the Premier’s Office indicating that campuses implementing mandatory mask mandates would contravene The Guidelines;
  3. The Minutes of any meetings the Steering Committee or Panel of Experts had that developed The Guidelines;
  4. Any documents establishing the mandate of the Steering Committee or Panel of Experts that developed The Guidelines;
  5. Any reference documents provided to the Steering Committee or Panel of Experts that developed the guidelines to assist them in developing The Guidelines;
  6. Any correspondence from the Premier’s Office, Ministry of Health, Provincial Health Office, or Ministry of Advanced Education to members of the Steering Committee or Panel of Experts that developed The Guidelines.

In addition to the above request, AAPS has sent FOI requests to 10 different universities and colleges in the province, including UBC, seeking all correspondence to/from their representatives to the provincial Steering Committee and Panel of Experts that developed the Guidelines.

We hope that through these FOI requests will be able to understand how we found ourselves in this challenging situation so close to the beginning of term. We hope to support shifts in policy that will allow UBC and other post-secondary institutions to make decisions on vaccines, masking, social distancing, and the number of people at physical worksites that will support the health and wellbeing of students, staff, faculty, and your families.

We have also heard from a number of you that feel your individual work situation may be particularly unsafe. If you have concerns about your department/unit’s return to worksite plans or have questions about medical accommodations, leaves of absence, negotiating on-going remote work arrangements, please contact the AAPS Office for a confidential conversation about your specific circumstances.

In addition to the work that the AAPS office is doing to ensure that you have a safer workplace, we are providing you with an opportunity to advocate on your own behalf. If you would like to participate in this advocacy work, you are welcome to submit a letter to the Provincial Government, asking them to allow campuses to develop stronger safety guidelines than those contained in the Return to Campus Guidelines. AAPS has drafted a form letter that you can access through our website.

Last week, President Ono noted he was negotiating with the provincial government for more COVID safety standards for the post-secondary sector. We hope that a show of support by AAPS members and others concerned about safety on campus will bolster President Ono’s arguments and provide him with additional support to help his negotiations be successful.

The letter calls for UBC to be able to determine health and safety protocols for their worksites and has a list of bullet points that can be customized depending on your point of view. You can select the specific leaders you would like your letter sent to based on our list. If you do not wish to use your own name and email address, there are instructions for using AAPS’ information.

Please be advised that while you can edit the letter, we want to remind you that sending a letter to public officials is not private. Please do not include any information about your personal situation. We recommend that you limit your editing to the bullet point list. AAPS is managing this campaign using the New/Mode platform. We will have access to the copies of the letters sent and who they are sent from. We will keep this information confidential.

You can access the letter through our website. (please note this link is no longer active)

Please contact aaps.engagement@ubc.ca if you have questions about using this form letter campaign.

We want to thank our fellow post-secondary education sector representatives for their efforts on this matter. Particularly, the AMS who has been at the forefront of ensuring a safe return to campus.

Sincerely,

Joey Hansen, AAPS Executive Director