Union updates — week of 3/29/2020

1.               Our #1 concern right now is still safety:

    • Are all non-essential staff now working from home?
    • Are essential staff working at the workplace only for minimal shifts and only for critical operations (and working from home for the non-critical tasks when practicable according Governor Murphy’s Executive Order 107)?
    • When in the workplace, are essential staff provided proper disinfecting supplies, protective equipment and distancing measures that adhere to Executive Order 107?

If you or a colleague cannot answer “yes” to any of these questions, please report a violation to the State of New Jersey and notify us at union@ura-aft.org immediately. Rutgers has failed to provide us with a comprehensive list of all staff who are deemed “essential” and performing critical operations in the workplace. Therefore, we depend on you to self-report any instance of a violation immediately.

2.               Coronavirus cases at Rutgers

Executive VP, Tony Calcado, informed us that no announcements will be made about new instances of positive virus cases in Rutgers buildings. We find this to be very irresponsible, and it puts the community’s safety at risk. It also may prevent you from applying for COVID-19 paid leave and seeking medical guidance. Again, we depend on members informing us of new cases as soon as possible.

3.               Emerging essential staff issues

Most of our essential staff are located in IPO, Dining and Residence Life, and in critical research labs. There are currently about three thousand students still housed on campus who have no other place to go. We received word that other students are now being allowed to come back onto campus to collect personal items that were left behind. We are concerned about how this affects our union members who work in Residence Life and Housing. It should be done with a reduced schedule and proper safety protocols for entering buildings after/with students. We are also receiving reports that staff who are managed by our members in IPO have already begun testing positive for the virus. We advise our members to refer these workers and yourselves immediately to the Occupational Health Department at Rutgers and to apply for COVID-19 paid leave.

4.               Timesheets, telework and COVID-19 paid leave

Rutgers’ expansion of telework and special paid leave allows for a mixture of safety, job continuity and sustained income—our most important goals. This is a good thing. Everyone, including essential staff, is eligible to apply and must work remotely when practicable. Everyone must apply. Rutgers must still negotiate with us about its approval processes, documentation requirements, and similar rules that are unfair and burdensome. Until then, see our best practices for how to utilize these programs and fill out timesheets. We encourage you to combine telework with paid leave to arrange a reduced or alternate schedule with your supervisor.

5.               COVID-19 issue survey

By now you should have received an online survey via email. Please fill it out right away if you have not yet done so. If you did not receive it, please email us at union@ura-aft.org to request the link.

6.               Negotiating with Rutgers

We are meeting with Vivian Fernandez, Tony Calcado and other Rutgers officials on a weekly basis along with other representatives from other Rutgers unions. We will provide you with updates as we go along. We intend to negotiate over things like pay for essential staff, vacation carryover rules, new employee orientation, processing contractual grievances, and the many other working conditions that have been impacted or may be impacted as a result of the pandemic and Rutgers’ handling of it thus far.