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Tuesday, February 1, 2000

  • New policy on staff discipline
  • Chair for African lake research
  • Toboggan team slips off to Regina
  • Notes as February gets rolling

New policy on staff discipline

A new version of UW's Policy 18 on staff employment -- with a much expanded section on discipline and dismissal of staff members -- has been issued after approval by the president. The new text, recommended to the president by the Staff Relations Committee, had been circulated last summer for discussion on campus. It should be available on the web later today.

"Principles of progressive discipline and stages of disciplinary action have been significantly expanded upon," says David Dietrich, assistant director of human resources and this year's chair of the Staff Relations Committee. "In all but exceptional circumstances, the provision whereby supervisors must discuss concerns with the staff member prior to initiating disciplinary action has been formally written into policy. . . . Supervisors are also cautioned about handling second-hand reports of problem situations."

Here are some excerpts from Section V of the revised policy:

Disciplinary action is intended to be corrective, not punitive. This is consistent with the principles of progressive discipline . . . in that it is intended to provide a constructive means for the staff member to understand the nature of the supervisor's work-related concern(s) in order to make efforts for improvement. Disciplinary action differs from instruction, discussion, and constructive feedback, which are part of the normal work environment.

In all but exceptional circumstances, supervisors must discuss the concern(s) with the staff member prior to initiating disciplinary action. Supervisors must be cautious about handling second-hand reports of problem situations. First-hand investigation should ensure that the information received is not hearsay, gossip, or rumour; allegations should be discussed with the staff member involved to give her/him a chance to respond.

To ensure that the principles of progressive discipline are followed, it is essential that supervisors consult with the appropriate Staff Relations Co-ordinator in Human Resources before disciplinary action is taken which results in or leads to: a formal written warning which becomes a matter of record; loss of earnings; suspension; demotion; or dismissal. The foregoing is required to ensure equity of treatment and consistency of application of University policies, as well as compliance with relevant legislation. Human Resources provides advice and guidance to the entire campus with respect to disciplinary matters, which ensures a fair and consistent approach.

Progressive discipline follows a prescribed path, progressing to each new level of discipline only if the previous step proved ineffective in correcting the area(s) of concern. One or more stages of this progressive discipline model may be bypassed under exceptional circumstances such as proven dishonesty, physical attack on others, serious insubordination, or other actions which could be considered "cause". In all but exceptional circumstances, these stages are:

At each stage of progressive discipline, it is the responsibility of the supervisor to draw to the attention of the staff member the various on-campus supports available, such as the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), Counselling Services, Human Resources, and the Office of Ethical Behaviour and Human Rights. At any stage of disciplinary action, the staff member must be provided with an opportunity to respond, acknowledge the concern(s), seek guidance, or offer a dissenting viewpoint.
Most other sections of Policy 18 are unchanged in the latest revision: I (Introduction and Purpose), II (Recruitment), III (Probationary Periods), IV (Promotion and Transfer), VII (Impact of Organizational Change on Staff Positions), and VIII (Provisions for a Staff Member Able to Return to Work After Long-Term Disability).

Section VI (Termination of Employment) has been changed to include the same definition of a staff member's normal retirement date that is already found in the UW pension plan: "the first day of the month which follows attainment of age 65".

Chair for African lake research

A ceremony today will launch the United Nations University Chair on African Great Lakes and Rivers, to be held by Robert Hecky in UW's department of biology. Hecky, a leading Canadian limnologist (fresh water specialist), has previously been based at the Canada Centre for Inland Waters in Burlington and been an adjunct professor at UW.

The new chair is described as "a collaborative international effort to help resolve water use conflicts and improve water quality in Africa". Partners in the four-year venture are UW, the International Network on Water, Environment and Health (INWEH) of the United Nations University, and Environment Canada's National Water Research Institute, part of CCIW.

The chair is new, but the research field is not; the biology department already has an African Lakes Research Group and is involved in INWEH.

"The chair will undertake graduate education, research and training and contribute to the resolution of African water research and management issues," said UW president David Johnston. Hecky said nations in East Africa's Rift Valley have a wide array of pressing water management needs, exacerbated by serious underlying economic, environmental and social problems. Strengthening of scientific and institutional capacity is critical to resolving Africa's water crisis. "The chair will serve as a focal point for programs to strengthen the capacity of Africa's Great Lakes nations to understand, monitor and manage shared aquatic resources."

Environment Canada will provide access to its laboratories and the participation of its scientists in chair-related projects; UW will provide office, laboratory and support services for the chair and its associated research professionals and graduate students; and INWEH will help provide staff and support for collaborative projects.

Hans van Ginkel, UN under secretary-general and rector of UNU, said the world needs many such efforts to improve conditions in developing countries. Training workers and strengthening water management practices is "the absolute minimum that the world community must provide to the world's poor without water," van Ginkel said.

Graphic from 'The Cichlid Fishes of Lake Malawi'
Among the chair's first initiatives is a project to help predict water quality problems in Lake Malawi (also known as Lake Nyasa), a 500 kilometre long, 50 kilometre wide body that lies between Malawi, Tanzania and Mozambique. Lake Malawi has exceptional water quality and fishing is heavy along its banks. Increasing nutrient loadings, however, threaten rapid eutrophication, depleting the lake's oxygen. To avoid this, it is necessary to evaluate the consequences of changing land-use and water demands. A model will be created to predict nutrient and sediment inputs, pollutant dispersal, phytoplankton growth and future eutrophication rates. Training in the model's use will be provided to the staff of national organizations in each of the three countries, together with graduate students who will return to their home agencies, both to use the model and to train others.

INWEH is based at McMaster University "with core funding provided by the Government of Canada to strengthen water management capacity, particularly of developing countries, and to provide on-the-ground project support". The UNU itself has its headquarters in Tokyo, with links to specialized centres in various parts of the world.

Today's celebrations start at 11 a.m. in the Laurel Room, South Campus Hall. Speakers will be MP Paddy Thorsney, parliamentary secretary to federal environment minister David Anderson; Ralph Daley, director of INWEH; UW president David Johnston; and Hecky himself.

Toboggan team slips off to Regina

Members of UW's Stone Cold toboggan team -- Sheri Binsell at front, with Steve Bottero, Neil Barrows and teammates behind -- leave for Regina tomorrow to take part in the 26th annual Great Northern Concrete Toboggan Race on Saturday.

Their flight to Saskatchewan is tame indeed compared with hurtling down a mountain on a concrete triangular toboggan weighing nearly 300 pounds, with a brake, but no steering. Fourth-year civil engineers, it seems, will do anything for a thrill.

[Crew on concrete] This year's UW entry is a totally new design, says team coordinator Tori de Bokx. It uses a cement, fibreglass and sand mix to create a concrete slab only three-quarters of an inch (two centimetres) thick. The triangular, dish-shaped slab has rounded tips, with runners built into the concrete form to keep it from spinning. An aluminum safety frame -- which includes a roll bar -- gives the five riders a hand grip, and although they won't be able to steer, they will have a steel brake on the back on the sled.

"Past teams from the University of Waterloo have always been strong promoters of the GNCTR," says de Bokx, "competing year after year, and hosting the 25th annual event."

UW's 1998 entry, Arctic Fire, captured the "World's Fastest Concrete Toboggan" title in Calgary, taking Best Concrete Mix, Best Technical Exhibition, and Most Spectacular Run honours to boot. That came on the heels of UW's 1997 Snow Fear victory in Ottawa, and the 1995 WaterLuge win in Montréal.

When asked their predictions for 2000, the Stone Cold team would only say, "Regina will be cold. Stone Cold."

Notes as February gets rolling

Service from the department of information systems and technology (IST) will be much reduced this afternoon, and the CHIP -- the Computing Help and Information Place -- will be closed altogether from 12 noon. Many IST staff will be going to St. Mary's, Ontario, for the funeral of co-worker Ron Press, who died Friday.

The teaching resources and continuing education offers a workshop today under the title "Teaching Dossiers, Part 2". It's led by Donna Ellis and Gary Griffin of the TRACE office, and starts at 4 p.m. in Math and Computer room 4063. (The same workshop will be offered again on Wednesday, February 9, same time and place.)

Olaf Naese sends word from the department of co-op education and career services that "Job Posting #8, for co-op students going through the interview process, is taking place. It was originally scheduled as a tentative thing depending on the number of jobs received. As it turns out, we have received enough jobs from employers to make Posting #8 a necessity."

Tomorrow brings the winter Job Fair, promising "over 150 recruiting employers at a single location", namely Bingemans Conference Centre in Kitchener. The event includes "permanent, contract, summer, co-op and part-time jobs", and runs from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. "What is it? An opportunity to meet employers who are currently hiring; to investigate career options and current jobs; to offer your resume to several employers; to present your skills and qualifications in person." Buses will leave UW's Student Life Centre every half hour, starting at 9:30, and return to UW (via Wilfrid Laurier University) starting at 11:00.

Freddie Swainston in UW's human resources department sends a reminder to managers and supervisors: annual performance appraisals for staff members are due March 15, and here it is February already.

Chris Harold, vice-president (internal) of the Federation of Students, writes: "The deadline to hand in Endowment Fund Proposal submissions has been extended to this Friday, February 4. Some people need more time to finish the paperwork so we are giving everybody a couple of extra days. Anyone with questions or ideas can call ext. 3780 or e-mail fedvpin@feds. Forms can be picked up at the Federation office (Student Life Centre room 1102)."


Editor of the Daily Bulletin: Chris Redmond
Information and Public Affairs, University of Waterloo
credmond@uwaterloo.ca | (519) 888-4567 ext. 3004
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