Category Archives: Health & Safety

Barchi, Do Staff Lives Matter?

OUR RESPONSE TO VIVIAN FERNANDEZ’ 3/19/2020 MEMO REGARDING TELEWORK AND COVID-19-RELATED LEAVE

(Corrected, originally emailed to members on 3/20/2020)

What to follow and not follow from Vivian’s memo:

Yesterday, Vivian Fernandez’ memo outlined a host of new procedures that play games with your safety. Her announced policies are illegal, a violation of our union contract and very much NOT in concert with the Governor’s directives and recommendations of public health experts.

Here is a roadmap for navigating the good and bad of this policy:

GENERAL CONCERNS

  • This policy was announced without negotiating with unions. It is a violation of article 52 of our contract among other things and a violation of the Public Employer-Employee Relations Act.
  • OneSource has failed to administer the simplest of tasks since its inception and will cause mismanagement beyond our imagination putting us at further safety risk. See our alternative recommendations below.
  • We intend to negotiate with Rutgers, not only with these policies, but also how they impact secondary policies such as vacation carryover rules before July.

THINGS THE POLICY GOT RIGHT

  • This policy addresses the core concerns appropriately – extending the use of telecommuting to everyone and waiving the use of your own paid time off for COVID-19 related absences.
  • It makes sense to extend these options—as they were announced—through April 30. Although, we continue to think any end date is very inappropriate at this stage.

DEALING WITH THE BAD THINGS…

  1. When in doubt, call out – The new policy gives managers too many ways to be unreasonable and make you unsafe. They can deny telecommuting without giving good reason. They can deny your absence if you do not jump through various administrative hoops.Here is the best solution if you must be absent to avoid a health and safety risk—rely on item I(3) outlined in Fernandez’ memo: “An employee is undergoing a period of self-quarantine or isolation pursuant to public health assessment recommendations”. This is applying to everyone every day. If you are unfairly charged time against your own PTO or docked pay—we will help you fight it after-the-fact. Safety comes first.
  2. Skip OneSource – always notify your supervisor first. OneSource is overwhelmed and riddled with malfunction. Article 44 of our union contract only requires that you report an absence within 15 minutes of the start of your day. We recommend calling AND emailing your supervisor to provide the proper notice. You can then go through OneSource once you have time.
  3. Documentation and deadlines should not prevent your safety – First call out for safety. If you can find documentation later, provide it. If you cannot within 5 days, we can fight it afterwards. Rutgers had no authority to create this rule without negotiating with us first. Also, S, V, PH and AL are YOUR earned days to use. Rutgers cannot simply deduct them without your permission.
  4. Use NJ earned sick leave (NJESL) – We have a law on our side. You can designate up to 40 hours of your sick time as NJESL for your family’s COVID-19-related needs without jumping through hoops. Simply email your supervisor that you wish to apply those hours to your absence.
  5. Non-essential staff — For all those non-essential staff that are being told to return to work in person, please establish in writing that your duties are services that are critical to ensuring the health, welfare and safety of others.  Please verify that the University is providing all disinfecting supplies and health protections (hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, masks, gloves and others) including screening materials (thermometers) before you return.  The University should not frivolously endanger any employee and should provide an environment that is free from hazards. If you feel unsafe, inform your department your working conditions are unsafe, and you need to go home.
  6. Essential personnel” does not mean all your work is essential– Essential personnel are not performing essential tasks always. When called back to work, ask for a reason in writing with a breakdown of the essential tasks. Forward the response to us at union@ura-aft.org. Only those performing critical duties for patients, students and essential operation should be called to campus and only to perform those duties.   If you feel unsafe, rely on our recommendation in #1 above to avoid coming to work, or inform your department your working conditions are unsafe and you need to go home.   Also, apply for telecommuting for all the things that are not truly essential.
  7. Do not let timesheets intimidate you – You can adhere to the rule without fear of being charged PTO, docked pay or threats of poor performance. We encourage you to work whenever you can, of course; but this illegal rule must still be negotiated and we have your back! Every day that you are home and ready to work should be listed on your time sheet as “available to work” for the entire work day. Do not leave any hours blank. Do not report any hours as “non-work” unless you truly cannot work for a legitimate excused absence.
  8. New probation rules are a violation of our union contract. We are fighting that.

We will further evaluate Bob Barchi’s failed leadership during these tough times with your safety in mind. Updates will follow, and please update us with your situations by emailing union@ura-aft.org.

Rutgers Staff—Orphans of the Storm?

Old Queens’ decision to ignore the dangerous weather conditions on Thursday, January 4, 2018 represents a return to the dangerous, irresponsible attitude to staff safety that we saw during Superstorm Sandy. As schools and State offices delayed openings and then closed, and one county actually banned travel on county roads, Rutgers Administration opened for normal operation on Thursday morning.

The fact that very few classes were in session (Winter Session only), and few students and faculty were on campus means that the effect of this decision was almost entirely upon the staff. When Old Queens reacted to a similar weather event by closing the University on January 3, 2014 it seemed that a lesson had been learned. Now, it seems staff safety has again been forgotten for the sake of a few thousand dollars of overtime pay.

URA members should be aware of the following:

The URA-Rutgers Agreement protects your right to use your accrued personal or vacation time if you either arrive late or leave early on a day when classes are cancelled on your campus. (Winter Session classes were cancelled at 2 pm on 1/4/18).

The Agreement also ties attendance for County office employees to the county in which they work. For example, Atlantic County employees should not report to work if the County closes its offices.

If you used your vacation or personal time for part of the day yesterday, no personal time should be charged for any hours you would normally have worked after the 2 pm closing was declared. (e.g., if you work 8:00–4:00 you record 2 hours of O, but if your schedule takes you to 5:30, then 3.5 hours should be recorded as O.

Our first contract in 2007 gave us the right to use our vacation time in inclement weather without fear of denial. Our campaign against the University’s indifference to staff safety during Superstorm Sandy gave us years of prudent application of weather policy. As we go into bargaining our next contract, this is an item which will be back on the table.

Work Shouldn’t Hurt! Anti-Bullying Workshop

WorkShouldntHurtShirtA special workshop presented by the Rutgers Labor Education Action Research Network (LEARN) for the Union of Rutgers Administrators / AFT Local 1766.

Bullying in the workplace can have devastating effects on both organizations and individuals.  In this workshop, we will learn how to identify bullying behavior and the structures that allow it to continue.  We will discuss the impact workplace bullying has on our lives, and consider strategies for addressing bullying both individually and through our union.

This workshop is a member benefit, open to signed, dues-paying members of the URA only.  Membership applications are available at the door.  RSVP by Wed., Nov. 22 @  2pm

Dates and Locations: