I am writing to update you on events concerning the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on Niagara College’s operations; unfortunately, I do not have much additional information beyond what College President Sean Kennedy put out in his 11 March email. Here is a timeline of events to this point:

January–February 2020—Faculty and Support Staff representatives on the Joint Health and Safety Committee flagged COVID-19 as an issue that the College needs to be prepared for.

11 March 2020—Prior to Sean Kennedy’s email, I sent a request to HR Director Nicole Perreault for information about the College’s COVID-19 contingency plan and for faculty input into any committee struck to deal with this matter.

12 March 2020Faculty and Support Staff representatives on the Joint Health and Safety Committee requested an emergency meeting for tomorrow—13 March—but the request has been ignored by management.

12 March 2020—I sent a similar request to Senior Vice-President of Corporate Services Pam Skinner that was sent the previous day to Nicole Perreault; I received a response shortly after with an invitation to a meeting with Pam and Nicole on Monday 16 March at 2 pm. Local 243 President Bob Holder has also been invited. An update will be provided about the College’s plans at this meeting and they would like to hear any additional thoughts or suggestions Bob and I may have.

There is also a regularly scheduled Joint Health & Safety Committee meeting on Tuesday, 17 March at 9 am.

As further information becomes available, I will pass it along to all members.

Thanks to the members who have already flagged areas of concern, such as the continued use of hand dryers in the washrooms, which help to spread bacteria, and the absence of hand sanitizers in many of the dispensers at the NOTL Campus.

These are certainly extraordinary times that are likely to present significant challenges to all of us in the NC community. This is also a rapidly evolving situation that is likely to change significantly over the coming days. It is incumbent upon management to immediately have a contingency plan that is well communicated to and addresses the concerns of all employees and that takes into account the teaching and learning needs of faculty and students. Local 242 is eager to work collaboratively with management to ensure that the best decisions are made based on the available evidence and information.

I also want to assure you that all CAAT-A local union presidents are working together with our divisional executive and OPSEU to ensure that our members are informed and protected. Please continue to do some of the simple health habits that we are all being reminded of such as regular handwashing and staying at home if you are sick or know that you have been in contact with someone with the virus.

Take good care of yourselves.

In solidarity,
Ravi Ramkissoonsingh
President, OPSEU Local 242

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