Category Archives: Labor

Standing up for our contract

Dear Member,

I hope that you and your families are all safe and well. These last few weeks have been harrowing due to the COVID-19 pandemic and caused much stress and anxiety. I trust that many of you are adjusting to working from home and are faring well. For those who are still working on campus, know your union is working hard to protect your safety.

In the last couple of weeks, Senior VP of Human Resources, Vivian Fernandez, has sent several emails that have caused consternation. We addressed some of these concerns to the Office of Labor Relations and wanted to share that we continue to protect the terms and conditions of employment that we negotiated in our contract.

Therefore, contrary to the email on April 2, 2020, reclassifications (Article 35), acting appointments (Article 2), and in-grade adjustments (Article 39) are not suspended actions for members of the URA. If you have been considering taking any of those actions to correct your compensation for the additional work that you have done and/or additional work that you continue to do, please begin the process now. If you experience any difficulty with any of the processes, please contact us at union@ura-aft.org.

Further corrections in response to Ms. Fernandez’s email from April 10, 2020, our performance evaluation (SCP) time period is May 1, 2019-April 30, 2020. Use the self-appraisal to document the many things that you do that keep Rutgers working every day and your contribution to the success of the University. If the job description reveals added scope and responsibility in your work, you should consider taking advantage of the self-reclassification process outlined in Article 35 in our contract.

I invite you to join us in our first virtual General Membership meeting for all campuses on Monday, April 20, 2020. The agenda includes: Secretary Minutes, Treasurer’s report and updates on COVID-19 issues. Please see the meeting information below.

Apr 20, 2020, 5:30 PM 

Register in advance for this meeting: (registration information was sent too members only via email)

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Looking forward to seeing you soon. Please stay and well.

In solidarity,

Christine O’Connell
President

Did you take the COVID-19 survey?

Updated: 3/31/2020

Between Friday, March 27 and Monday, March 30, 2020, we sent out our COVID-19 issue survey to you.  Did you receive it? We typically send emails to the official Rutgers email account on file with the University.  The email was sent by Lucye Millerand, URA-AFT Exec. Vice President.  Please double-check your inbox and junk folders.

If you received the survey, please complete it immediately.  Your responses are helping us prioritize immediate safety issues and categorize any remaining issues that we can raise with Rutgers.  We are attempting to negotiate with Rutgers over both ongoing and secondary issues.  Secondary issues might be how the pandemic impacts regular policies such as vacation carryover rules later this year.

If you did not receive the survey  link, please email us at union@ura-aft.org with your preferred email address so that we can resend it to you.

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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