The University of Saskatchewan’s main campus is situated on Treaty 6 Territory and the Homeland of the Métis.

USSU part-time workers receive financial support during university closure

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USSU office photographed on Aug. 26, 2019. | Victoria Becker/ Photo Editor

The students’ union has ac­cessed reserve funds to sup­port their student employees while the University of Sas­katchewan campus is closed. The executive is also current­ly reviewing ways to advocate for students’ needs amid the pandemic.

The University Students’ Council meeting on March 12 was dominated by a sense of uncertainty, as the council­lors correctly anticipated that it would be the last in-person meeting for the group this term. Among their prepara­tions for this eventuality, the council passed the annual budget for the U of S Stu­dents’ Union’s a week ahead of time and released $100,000 dollars from the union’s re­serves.

This fund will support the union’s less than full-time employees, including the workers at Student Crew, Louis’ and Louis’ Loft. Most of these workers are students that have hourly rates and no paid sick time, so they are left without that source of income while the campus is closed.

“This involves a rapidly moving situation,” General Manager Caroline Cottrell said ahead of the vote. “My concern is about our student workers because they are our employees and … for some of them this is how they put food in their mouths.”

These workers have been receiving an amount report­edly similar to what they would have usually made if the campus were open. They will only receive this support until the end of the academ­ic year in April, when their jobs would have ended under normal circumstances. The USSU is not currently plan­ning to hire for the spring and summer months.

“To my knowledge, there is no foreseen end to this pandemic and there is no foreseen end to the measures the university has taken,” said USSU President Regan Ratt-Misponas in an inter­view with the Sheaf. “There is a wonderful incoming execu­tive that I know will be able to ensure that there are good outcomes and that we’re able to hire students, hopefully, as things return to normal come September.”

While the closure of cam­pus locations like Louis’ Loft and Louis’ Pub affects the USSU’s finances, they have just under half a million dol­lars in their liquid reserve and business interruption in­surance. Though the remain­ing USC meetings have been cancelled, the executive and senior staff have continued to manage the union’s oper­ations and finances through online meetings and votes.

Ratt-Misponas says that advocacy has been a frequent topic in the executive’s recent meetings.

“We need to ensure that students have a sense of pro­tection and that students aren’t punished for these difficult times that we’re in,” Ratt-Misponas said. “In our ongoing conversations with the administration we contin­ue to lobby and in the coming days, I think that there’ll be more to expect.”

There has been recent movement online from U of S students pushing for the university to implement a pass/fail grading system, fol­lowing the example of oth­er Canadian universities. Ratt‑Misponas says the ex­ecutive is not currently mak­ing a statement as they learn more about the situation.

“We’re educating ourselves right now about things that different institutions are do­ing, but we’ve also been able to have conversations with the administration,” Ratt­Misponas said. “It has been encouraging — I’m glad that other folks are also taking on efforts to advocate for their fellow students, especially during these times.”

Ana Cristina Camacho | News Editor

Photo: Victoria Becker/ Photo Editor

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