Concordia’s labour union for teaching assistant’s pushes back against the Feb. 3 return to campus

The letter states 78 per cent of members feel unsafe returning to work

The Teaching and Research Assistants at Concordia University (TRAC) union detailed their displeasure with Concordia’s decision to return to campus on Feb. 3. The letter states that 78 per cent of TRAC members do not feel safe returning to work.

Distributed on Jan. 17, the letter titled “No Work But Safe Work” outlined TRAC’s five demands which they would like to be met when a return to campus should occur. Their safety demands include that “Concordia commit to online learning at least until cases and hospitals are under control for a minimum of two weeks.”

Additionally, they demand the provision of N95/KN95 masks to students and employees, and a guarantee of at least two weeks notice before Concordia transitions to or changes their plan to return to campus. Currently the university has stated they will only give a week’s notice. TRAC aren’t alone in these demands, as other unions such as the Centrale des syndicats du Québec (CSQ) and the Fédération autonome de l’enseignement (FAE) have requested access to similar PPE.

TRAC expressed that Concordia should provide testing measures in the event of a classroom outbreak through “on-campus access to rapid tests and effective contact tracing.”

Their final request was that the university provide “professional, paid training for online teaching considering that it is not the same as in-person, and yet we are expected to learn on the fly.”

In regards to the virus, TRAC stated that a return to campus by Feb. 3 would “increase the spread and place thousands of students and TAs [teaching assistants] & RAs [research assistants] at an unnecessary risk of contracting the virus, which could then be transmitted to their families and overburden the healthcare system.”

The letter further stated that the university would be putting the greater Montreal community at risk if they went through with a preemptive return to classes.

“Although the government insists that mental health is their number one priority in pushing for a return to schools, the stress and fear of an unsafe working environment is a far greater burden on our collective mental health.”

The Concordia Student Union (CSU) published a similar open letter criticizing the university’s return to in-person classes, which collected 850 signatures in less than 9 hours since its release, according to Hannah Jamet-Lange, academic and advocacy coordinator at the CSU.

Currently there have been 259,626 COVID cases in Montreal since the beginning of the pandemic with over 1,374 new cases reported on Jan. 19. Third dose boosters are now available for anyone above the age of 18 in Quebec provided you are three months past your last dose.

Visuals by Alexa Hawksworth

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