All posts by grusciano

O’Connell to BOG: “use your influence to rescind the layoffs”

Statement from Christine O’Connell, President
Union of Rutgers Administrators

Rutgers University Board of Governors Meeting
December 17, 2020

My name is Christine O’Connell and I am the president of the Union of Rutgers Administrators-American Federation of Teachers (URA-AFT) and I represent over 2,500 staff who work at Rutgers in hundreds of depts. that span all aspects of academics, libraries, auxiliary services and operations. We are the backbone of this University. When you choose to find savings through layoffs that devastate our lives and the lives of our families, it is a poor choice. You impact not only the staff who are laid off and their families, but you hurt the very students that we espouse to serve. 

Your consideration of spending more money to purchase 3 floors at the Gateway building instead of leasing at this time is not one that we support. Perhaps there are reasons that I’m not aware of that this may be a long term cost savings, but when over 1,000 people are laid off and struggling to make ends meet and put food on their tables during one of the worse economic downturns in American history and during a global pandemic, you should choose to retain workers.

Your employees are the people who provide the exemplary service to our students. Students come to Rutgers to get a stellar education to help move them towards success as adults. My members take great pride in their part in that process, from recruiting them, reviewing their applications in admissions, guiding and advising them through their educational journey, feeding them, housing them, and yet continue to be overlooked as integral contributors in Rutgers’ success. We are a great University because of their work. 

Decisions to impact their livelihood are made at a much higher level than ours, but for some reason, those who are making the decisions don’t seem to be cut, even when their work is not vital to the service of our students. Top administration continues to grow, and you shrink those who actually do the work. This hurts our students.
We ask that Board of Governors to use your influence to rescind the layoffs that have happened and return those who have separated and are separating soon, the 8 people in libraries, dozens across EFNEP, Genetics, Physics, Economics, ESL, English, History, Political Science, and dining. These people who were laid off are integral to their departments. Some may be the only administrative person in their department who manage the grants, make sure money is properly spent and accounted for, assist our students, educate in the community and so many more things. Their absence is more than a cost savings, their loss is measurable and leaves a void for our students, and they certainly make more of a difference in the success of our students than whether we purchase another 3 floors at the Gateway building. 

Flexible Scheduling and COVID-19 Paid Leave

The protections of Families First Coronavirus Response Act, including Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act ( EPSLA) and Emergency Family and Medical Leave Act (EFMLA), are ending 12/31/20 with no bills in the pipeline to get an extension passed by Congress or signed by the president before expiration.

We are negotiating for a program for those who need more flexibility in the work schedules in order to care for others while working from home. For example, if you have a school age child, you may want to work from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m. to 1:00. p.m., and 4:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. to be able to monitor and assist with your child’s remote instruction and still work a full 7.5 hour day.

This type of flexibility should be accommodated when possible since many of us have multiple responsibilities. My understanding is that many of us are working more hours because the boundaries are blurred, so it is still important to keep a record.

Since federal protections will expire, we will ask that the COVID Paid Leave program administered by Rutgers be resurrected. If you must quarantine for COVID exposure or must care for yourself or family members because of COVID, there should be no obligation for you to exhaust your paid time off. We will have this discussion with Rutgers leaders and will let you know if we make progress.

Exec. Order 192 & Reporting Violations

On October 28th, Governor Murphy signed Executive Order (EO) 192, which provided additional health and safety protocols that employers must follow. This EO gives details of what workplace employers must provide to protect their employees.

Of particular notice is section 1h. where employers are required to, “Promptly notify all employees of any known exposure to COVID-19 at the worksite, consistent with the confidentiality requirements of the ADA and any 9 other applicable laws, and consistent with guidance from the EEOC;”.

Read the EO »

Because the state predicted that employers would try to violate parts or all of EO 192, they have provided several methods to bring them to their attention. I encourage you to notify us, Rutgers, and the state if you see violations. Here are the links to report any violations on protocols of health and safety.