Students can expect refunds from January’s GRT strike in their Quest accounts in the coming weeks, according to Katherine Bradshaw, WUSA’s Communications and Media Relations Manager.
All GRT bus drivers, mechanics and dispatchers were on strike for 10 days in January and resumed service on Feb. 1, 2020.
The GRT issued a 50 per cent refund to all residents with a monthly bus pass and offered free transportation for every weekend of February.
But what about the students?
WUSA is renegotiating the UPass for renewal and simultaneously determining how students should be reimbursed, how much the reimbursement should be, and which students will receive a reimbursement.
“WUSA is working with UW Finance to refund all students on academic term, impacted by the GRT strike,” reads WUSA’s website.
“These funds will be credited to your Quest account and you will receive an email from your VPOF Seneca [Velling] when you can expect them. Discussions continue on how to process refunds for those on co-op and off terms. We’ll share an update when this is determined as well.”
A refund cannot be issued by WUSA until a minimum of 30 days after the strike.
WUSA is considering many options. How much students will be reimbursed will be based on how the team defines “Service Disruption” under the UPass agreement between GRT and WUSA, and whether the ION being active changes the nature of the disruptions or not.
Secondly, they need to consider how many UPasses are considered active. All students have paid for a UPass, however some students have been affected more than others.
The reimbursement acts as a way to repay students for the obstacles they faced to make it to campus, such as cab fares. On the other hand, there are part-time students and students on co-op outside of Waterloo who weren’t affected by the disruption.
Based on these considerations and the length of the disruption, WUSA will determine the amount that each student gets reimbursed.
The terms of how students will be reimbursed is also being discussed to ensure that students are reimbursed in the best way possible. WUSA and the UW Finance office chose mass refunds to students via Quest similarly to bursaries and tuition refunds over other options.
Some technical issues around this option need to be considered such as if patching Quest to allow for the transfer is a lengthy process, or if this approach can be automated or needs to be done manually.
Originally, WUSA had considered two other refund methods, which were scrapped in favour of using Quest.
The first option was a claims-based refund, either in cash or cheque. With this option, students would visit the WUSA office in the SLC to receive their reimbursement.
For this option to occur, WUSA needed to consider the amount of cash on hand, whether all students can easily get their reimbursement, whether all students would be willing to claim their refund and if which may lead to some affected students failing to claim the refund if they cannot make it into the office.
The second option was to issue gift cards or vouchers for goods on campus.
The issue with that option is the potential number of students who will be dissatisfied with the manner of the refund.
The UPass agreement as it is set to expire on Aug. 31, 2020.