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URA Health and Safety Survey Analysis Report

Click here for a PDF of the Survey Results (redacted for privacy)

In July 2021, we asked our members to complete a survey regarding health and safety within the context of a return to campus.  These survey results gave us an initial glimpse into your concerns about workplace health and safety issues in the university and in your individual buildings.  Below please find a narrative of the survey results. 

A total number of 541 URA members responded to our survey.  While the demographics of departments varied, it appeared to be proportionately representative of the breakdown of members, with the majority of respondents working in the administrative/support and student services areas.  The data was spread across campuses as well, with between 25–30 percent of the responses coming from Newark and/or Camden.

At the time of the surveys, many of our members did not feel they had the resources or information necessary to do their jobs safely.  Lack of clear and consistent communication, combined with inconsistent protocols, indicated that many of our members did not know exactly what the rules were or what to do if they saw them being broken.  For example, almost 50 percent (242) of our members answered “not sure/don’t know” when asked if there was a formal and transparent process in place for employees in your building/department to offer suggestions or report concerns.  Likewise, more than 200 respondents answered “no” when asked if they felt that Rutgers had encouraged them to speak up without fear of retaliation.  The responses from members regarding satisfaction with communication varied widely, indicating that some departments and supervisors are communicating effectively, and some are not.  The overall feeling is that information from the university itself has been inconsistent and unclear.

Most members felt they should have some input into their work situations, and most also said they, personally, had not been consulted or surveyed before being required to return.  Likewise, most members indicated they had little input into the circumstances (i.e., hybrid scheduling, continued telecommuting, etc.) of their return.  This is consistent with what is going on around the country, with more employees feeling they should have something to say about how they work. 

Most members, generally more than 50%, were aware of Covid protocols (testing, vaccination upload, etc.), and while most were okay with the vaccine mandate, it still should be noted that there was significant concern over a lack of consistency, inaccurate, and/or incomplete information.  This indicates that the university is not doing all it can to make sure this information is accessible and presented to all employees. Almost 30% of respondents felt that the requirement to upload vaccination cards was a violation of privacy, while an additional 15% were not sure.

It is concerning that many of our members indicated they lacked knowledge or information about their own particular circumstances, whether it be the protocols they had to follow, the process for reporting a violation, the HVAC system in their buildings, or other circumstances. 

Once again, thank you for completing this survey — in addition to assisting us in creating a new survey based on these results, this information will be used to identify workplace solutions through collaboration with other offices, as well as assisting us in our collective bargaining and job actions. 

Work share program updates

Update 5/18/21: The NJ DOL approved the Rutgers/URA-AFT shared work program application. This means that applications for unemployment insurance benefits for furloughs beginning the week of 5/16/21 will be paid (assuming your individual claim is approved) as planned.

Update 5/15/21: Last Monday, we shared with members management’s list of those eligible to furlough. Thank you to everyone for assisting in verifying that list. We had a tremendous response. Working as a union, we compiled a list of corrections for the final roster. There may still be mistakes, but we are working and meeting with UHR and the New Jersey Department of Labor (NJ DOL) to correct them as soon as possible. 

On Friday, the plan was sent to NJ DOL for approval. We have not received approval at this time. On late Friday afternoon, Sr. VP Vivian Fernandez sent her email providing instructions on filing for unemployment.

If you are eligible for furlough, you will receive a separate email from your department
 with an Official Notification from your department with the agreed furlough day of the week through the duration of the program.
If you are ineligible for the furlough program, you already should have received an email telling you are exempted.

If you have a furlough day scheduled, take it as planned. Until the NJ DOL approves the plan, when you apply for unemployment benefits, your claim will remain pending. If the DOL does not approve the plan retroactively, you will be made whole. 

Work share program resources

  1. Resources to help you apply
  2. Claims from out-of-state must be made by phone

Apply by phone (see 5/14/21 memo) if you don’t have a New Jersey driver’s license or state ID. If you call in and complete the automated questionnaire, you don’t have to keep calling to speak to a live agent. NJDOL has a list of out-of-state employees who might use the phone system. So don’t worry if you are asked for little of the information you were instructed to gather—your responses will be enough for NJDOL staff to match you to the list of work-sharing participants from Rutgers.

If you haven’t yet completed the automated input questionnaire, please call today between 8 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. After you apply by phone, you will need to set up direct deposit afterwards by following these instructions (external link to Rutgers AAUP-AFT).

3. Victims of unemployment fraud

NJDOL plans to call you to clear you for benefits if you’ve been identified as a victim of fraud. If you haven’t already, you should email UHR at hr_operations@hr.rutgers.edu and provide a cell number so NJDOL can reach you. We also provided the cell phone numbers that we had on file for union members already.

Please pick up calls if they come from an unknown or blocked number (watch for these two numbers in particular: 732–761-2020 and 201–601-4100). If it’s an agent from NJDOL, answer their questions—you should be done and ready to receive benefits.

4. Problems creating a new NJ DOL UI account

You need to get your information to UHR so they can put your name and information on a list of people that NJDOL needs to clear up. You can email UHR at hr_operations@hr.rutgers.edu. Give as much information as you can remember about the problems you encountered, including where in the process you were prevented from applying and what error message you saw. 

5. NJDOL Snail Mail You Can Ignore

You may get a standard mailing from NJDOL to your home address after your claim is approved. This is good news. Some of the forms you get may have information that is confusing. No action is required. UHR has a detailed list of communications you might receive from NJDOL and whether any action is required. Above all, if you receive any communication telling you to certify weekly for continued unemployment payments or to set up appointments to certify, ignore it. 

6. NJDOL Emails You Should NOT Ignore

Some of you received emails from NJDOL marked “E‑adjudication” or indicating that there are “Unresolved Issues on your Claim” that ask you to complete a form. This is a routine email that indicates NJDOL thinks you answered a question incorrectly. You need to complete the form linked in the email and indicate if you answered a question inaccurately.

These “unresolved issues” are usually the result of people making a mistake with questions on the standard unemployment form that don’t make sense in our situation. These questions are meant for people who have lost employment, not people in a work-sharing program. If you keep this in mind, it will help you answer the questions correctly. Here are a few questions that we know about:

  • Are you able and willing to work full time? (please answer “yes”)
  • Do you expect to be recalled by this employer? (please answer “no”)
  • Are you receiving benefits from a pension or retirement fund (unless you are getting a pension from another institution, please answer “no”; some of you were mixed up because you are contributing to a retirement fund, but you are not receiving distributions from it).

Have the 5/14/21 UHR memo on filing for unemployment handy to help you answer the questions. Unfortunately, though, the follow-up forms from NJDOL ask for some of the same information from the original application, but with different wording. Here is some information you may need for these follow-up questionnaires:

  • Employer address: Rutgers University NJ, c/o Corporate Cost Control, P.O. Box 1180, Londonderry, NH 03053
  • Employer phone number: (800) 207‑6926
  • Last day physically worked with employer: 05/15/2021
  • Date of separation from employer: 05/15/2021
  • Your rate of pay: This is the gross earnings for the last 12 months that the UHR instructions tell you to gather from your myRutgers portal.
  • Type of pay: Annual
  • Reason for separation: Select “Other” and enter: “Hours reduced—COVID-19-related”
  • Please explain why you were separated from your job: Hours reduced—COVID-19-related