Category Archives: Health & Safety

Is Rutgers serious about saving?

Jobs, Healthcare and Safety

You have probably heard rumors regarding layoffs and furloughs from various managers and schools that make the decision seem inevitable.  You may have heard threats to union leaders that Rutgers will declare a fiscal emergency and withhold the raises scheduled for July 1.   As union members, we recognize the economic dangers of this crisis…we also remember how Rutgers exploited workers in past crises, and pocketed the profits. The Executive Board of the URA has passed a resolution that empowered me, as President of the URA, to formally represent our needs at the negotiation table.

In the past week, the Coalition of Rutgers Unions met with management and offered a proposal that prioritize employees’ jobs, healthcare, and safety as the University responds to the COVID-19 crisis.  On the economic side, the union proposal protects the most vulnerable in our workforce, and demands shared sacrifice from those at the top levels of administration. Collectively, AFT unions (URA-AFT, HPAE-AFT and Rutgers AAUP-AFT) make up about 70% of the coalition by membership.

Our plan demands savings that include spending some of the $583 million dollars Rutgers holds in unrestricted reserves.

Our plan leverages State and Federal legislation to avoid the pain of layoffs for both the employee and the employer.  First, we expect all levels of management to take furloughs along with unionized workers.  Second, if we reach an agreement of a “work sharing” program, furloughed employees will be able to replace or make more than their lost income through unemployment benefits and the CARES act passed by Congress earlier this year.

By utilizing our plan, the University would save around a $100 million dollars in payroll costs without a without inflicting the pain and uncertainty of lost wages and health benefits.  We deliberately did our calculations for unionized employees to include those who would receive full salary replacement through unemployment insurance and for some, an increase in compensation, by taking advantage of the extra $600 a week authorized under the CARES act.

Our furlough proposal runs to the end of July, when the CARES act is currently scheduled to end.  The Coalition is working with the Department of Labor to create a process for claiming unemployment benefits with minimal delay.  As we learn more of those details, the URA will help members with that paperwork as needed.

Every day that management delays in implementing our proposal is dollars lost to the University as they continue to claim they are in poor financial shape.  In return for money-saving furloughs, we have made demands, including: no declaration of a fiscal emergency, no layoffs for FY21, extending layoff recall time through the hiring freeze, expanding vacation carryover, creating a hardship fund, and union representation in planning a safe re-opening process.

We call on Rutgers to respond to our proposal without further delay.  With the savings that we have proposed, Rutgers will be well prepared financially throughout the pandemic and beyond to continue the mission of the University and provide exemplary service to students, staff, community, and all stakeholders in New Jersey.

If negotiations with Rutgers management require any changes to our existing collective bargaining agreement, those changes will be presented to members for ratification.  Only union members are entitled to vote.  Any vote will be held remotely, under the changes to our union constitution which we ratified in 2019.

It is more important than ever to have our voices heard as Rutgers makes plans that impact our lives.  If you haven’t joined as a member yet, this is your chance to have a voice. If you believe that Rutgers will look out for you first, you will be disappointed. Through our union, the URA, we say that #weRnotdisposable and our work is integral to University.  Please join us now to protect your future.

Take action now.

Take a pic of yourself with working from home with a sign that reads #weRnotdisposable.

Tweet #weRnotdisposable at @RutgersU and @union1766.  Put it on your FB and share with us.  If you don’t have social media, email it to us and we will compile on our website.

Stay safe and well.  We will keep you updated as negotiations progress.

In solidarity,

Christine,
President

Report COVID-19 Violations

Revised
SAFETY FIRST — REPORT VIOLATIONS DIRECTLY TO THE STATE OF NJ FOR IMMEDIATE CORRECTIVE ACTION

Union leaders have been reporting violations on your behalf, but now you can do the same as an individual.  Our union believes that Rutgers University and its managers are failing to  adhere to certain provisions of the Governor’s Executive Order 107 when any of the following occurs:

  1. Non-essential staff mandated to return to the workplace for any reason,
  2. Telework application is denied,
  3. Essential staff mandated to return to work for non-essential or non-critical operations (i.e. not given the option to perform the non-essential tasks from home),
  4. Essential staff working under unsafe or unprotected workplace conditions (i.e. improper PPE, unsanitized buildings, improper social distancing, and other unsafe directives),
  5. Rutgers managers not adhering to this order: “minimal number of on-site employees as possible to ensure critical operations can continue”, when creating work schedules,
  6. Employee threatened with disciplinary action, loss of pay or similar form of retaliation in response to compliance with this executive order or Rutgers’ own policies on telework or COVID-19-related paid leave.

Click here: REPORT VIOLATIONS DIRECTLY

Please also notify the union office at union@ura-aft.org about your reported violation as soon as possible.

Update on COVID-19 Issues

Revised 3/29/2020

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.

On the other hand, we already announced to you that Rutgers’ methods in administering them are unduly burdensome and were not negotiated with Rutgers unions.

We will take action to fight back on the unfair rules, but we also need to prioritize based on time and safety. This helps our union representatives act quickly for the most critical concerns. Please keep these things in mind:

PRIORITY #1 – your safety, job continuity and pay

Every non-essential worker should be home now, whether for telework, paid leave or a combination of both. While we understand Rutgers’ announced rules for requesting and documenting are unfair, report back to us IMMEDIATELY if you are:

  1. Non-essential staff mandated to return to the workplace,
  2. Essential staff mandated to return to work for non-essential reasons (i.e. different from the Governor’s list) or to an unsafe or unprotected workplace,
  3. refused telework,
  4. refused pay,
  5. refused paid leave,
  6. required to work outside your normal hours to “make up” lost time (e.g. told to work all night in exchange for your paid leave during the day),
  7. mandated to use your own paid time off,
  8. threatened with disciplinary action, pay docking or similar form of retaliation.

Only report these to us now if you get an actual negative decision or directive. Otherwise, keep requesting, emailing and pushing through the administrative stuff until you get a definitive YES or NO from management. Stay home under all circumstances and while you are corresponding with management.

PRIORITY #2 – Everything else

Document everything and forward your concerns to us when you can. We will be fighting Rutgers on the legal front, collective action and through negotiations for a while. Put all requests to Rutgers and your supervisors in writing. Save all copies. Keep a careful log of everything said and done from now on and be ready to share it with us.

In the meantime, here are some best practices for dealing with the RU screw:

1. Be proactive and arrange a reduced schedule with your manager – Try to always be “available to work” from home, if possible, during your regular hours. Make it known to your supervisor. However, if you truly cannot work a full day because of illness or childcare, consider working only a partial work day and charge the rest to paid COVID-19 related leave. As long as you are paid for a full day’s work, it can be broken up between COVID-19 leave and telework. Managers need to be flexible to your family and safety needs. And you need to be flexible to adapt to a new work environment. It is a team effort—communication is key.

2. TimesheetsLack of work? — Make sure you always write “available to work” on your daily work plan. It means you are available to take calls, respond to emails, receive supervisor directives—it is work. Do not volunteer to go back to the office to get work. Instead, your manager must realize that some typical work time and tasks will be lost due to self-isolation needs—we are all adapting. Get creative and proactive with your work tasks. Take online training, build your skills or other self-paced work when you cannot perform regular work tasks. Call a colleague or client to talk about a project. These can be reported on your time sheet.  We recommend that you report blocks of time larger than 15 minutes increments on the sheets.

3. Agree to disagree when it comes to using your own paid time off (PTO)- Do not actually agree to charge any COVID-19 related absence to your own PTO (i.e. your V, S, PH or AL time) other than NJESL. Just agree to disagree. If your supervisor demands that you do or threatens you, contact us immediately. We are fighting Rutgers’ illegal rules for documentation and denials. We can help you later to recover your PTO if you keep careful documentation, especially if it is charged without your agreement.

4. Essential staff who still report to the workplace – do not agree to work under unsafe or unprotected conditions. All personal protective equipment and recommended safety guidelines must be followed. Otherwise, object to the work for safety reasons. Do not refuse to work, but simply state that you cannot work until it is safe. You should also consider isolating at home based on the Governor’s guidelines if/until it is safe to report back to the workplace. Do not agree to return to campus for non-essential tasks. Only essential jobs actually performing essential tasks under safe conditions should be required. Everyone, including essential staff, is eligible to apply and must work remotely when practicable. Everyone must apply according to the Governor’s Executive Order 107.

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