United Steelworkers Local 1998 Employee Experiences During COVID-19


Universities serve as major employers in Canada and around the world. In Toronto, the University of Toronto is the city’s largest employer, yet employee experiences are not well understood. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, workplaces such as the University have had to adjust to public health guidelines and take measures to ensure their employees’ safety. This paper explores the experiences of administrative and technical employees at the University of Toronto represented by the United Steelworkers (USW) Local 1998. Twenty-one employees were recruited and interviewed over zoom between July and November 2021. Key findings include (1) benefits and disadvantages of working from home, (2) desire for some continued work-from-home post-pandemic, (3) accommodation issues, (4) concerns over long-term job security, (5) changing worker relations and implications, (6) precarity for casual staff, and (7) employee aspirations and pessimism for improved working conditions. These findings point to several important implications for policy and program development and union organizing, including the need to develop flexible work cultures and guidelines for managers during and post-pandemic, and the need for accommodations and compensation for home-office equipment.

Author: Amanda Harvey-Sánchez