When Rutgers management declared an Emergency Closing on January 3, URA members were pleasantly surprised. “OMG” and “finally” echoed across our social media networks. Essential personnel who were called in to work got their emergency compensation and the rest of our workforce got a day to shovel our own sidewalks.
For five years, URA has worked to require Rutgers to declare an emergency closing when the Governor declares a statewide emergency. We have been dismayed that Rutgers can give student and faculty safety a higher priority than the staff. We have been baffled that a State or Federal emergency declaration can be ignored by a single educational institution. We suffered legal setbacks when two separate arbitration decisions told us that our contract does not require such a closing. URA has led an ongoing effort including a petition campaign following Superstorm Sandy, http://www.change.org/petitions/fairness-for-rutgers-staff-affected-by-hurricane-sandy, a separate grievance after Sandy, and many conversations with members, student government and legislators about the meaning of “State of Emergency.”
The revisions to Rutgers policy 60.3.16 Attendance During Adverse Weather Conditions which were announced in November 2013 do not fix this serious problem. But we are pleased to see that on January 3, common sense prevailed.
Staff without the “essential” designation should not have been called in to work on January 3 and should see the day recorded on their absence record as an “O”. This includes anyone who had planned a vacation or personal day.
“A big ‘thank you’ goes out to the hundreds of URA members, co-workers from other unions (and no union), students, family and friends who have worked over the years to bring Rutgers to enact the common-sense policy of closing during a state of emergency,” said URA-AFT President Lucye Millerand. “While congratulations goes out to whomever made the right call on Jan. 3, we need to keep up the pressure for closing Rutgers offices during a state of emergency to become the standard practice.”