Union response to the Vivian Fernandez memo dated 4/2/2020
Yesterday we received an email from the Senior Vice President of Human Resources that implemented unilateral changes supposedly due to the financial impact that the University is experiencing. These changes were not negotiated and are contrary to our contract. I am writing to tell you that our contract must be considered before she can implement her table of changes that impact our working conditions. These include:
- The self-initiated reclassification process is protected by Article 35.
- In grade increases are protected by Article 39, Salary Adjustments.
- Acting Appointments are protected by Article 2 in our contract.
Some of us are taking on new responsibilities in this time of crisis. Some of us were already working well beyond our original job descriptions.
URA recommendations to address this unfair situation:
- If you were already in the process of preparing a self-initiated reclassification, continue, submit the form, and keep all responses to prove the date which will be the date for retroactive pay if/when the request is successful.
- If your department was preparing a reclassification for you, request that an acting appointment be submitted for the same out-of-title duties. If this is refused, you can file a grievance, which will protect the date of any retroactive pay. Remember, you are NOT obligated to perform these duties, and you cannot be held accountable for your performance unless there is an acting appointment in place.
- UHR has NOT put the Staff Compensation Program on hold. (Wonder why?) As you prepare your self-evaluation, include the out-of-title duties you are doing. State that these are out-of-title and not in your job description. If your supervisor accepts that you are doing these duties, the evaluation form becomes part of the documentation for your case for acting pay or reclassification.
Some 10 years ago, UHR tried this same move, and too many departments and URA members simply held off filing reclassifications. When we finally settled the grievance, the members who did file during the “freeze” got their retroactive pay.
During this time when we are all experiencing concerns for the health and safety of ourselves and our families, management does not get to supersede what we negotiated in our contract. There is enough anxiety and stress that we face managing our health, our work, and our lives without misleading information disseminated.
Our union, with your help, continues to fight for the best working conditions that we deserve. Our work is integral to the operations of this University and it must be valued. As the University remains open, our hard work, determination, and ability to adapt to changing conditions allows Rutgers to maintain operations seamlessly. Without our work, Rutgers would not be able to work.
1. Our #1 concern right now is still safety:
- Are all non-essential staff now working from home?
- Are essential staff working at the workplace only for minimal shifts and only for critical operations (and working from home for the non-critical tasks when practicable according Governor Murphy’s Executive Order 107)?
- When in the workplace, are essential staff provided proper disinfecting supplies, protective equipment and distancing measures that adhere to Executive Order 107?
If you or a colleague cannot answer “yes” to any of these questions, please report a violation to the State of New Jersey and notify us at firstname.lastname@example.org immediately. Rutgers has failed to provide us with a comprehensive list of all staff who are deemed “essential” and performing critical operations in the workplace. Therefore, we depend on you to self-report any instance of a violation immediately.
2. Coronavirus cases at Rutgers
Executive VP, Tony Calcado, informed us that no announcements will be made about new instances of positive virus cases in Rutgers buildings. We find this to be very irresponsible, and it puts the community’s safety at risk. It also may prevent you from applying for COVID-19 paid leave and seeking medical guidance. Again, we depend on members informing us of new cases as soon as possible.
3. Emerging essential staff issues
Most of our essential staff are located in IPO, Dining and Residence Life, and in critical research labs. There are currently about three thousand students still housed on campus who have no other place to go. We received word that other students are now being allowed to come back onto campus to collect personal items that were left behind. We are concerned about how this affects our union members who work in Residence Life and Housing. It should be done with a reduced schedule and proper safety protocols for entering buildings after/with students. We are also receiving reports that staff who are managed by our members in IPO have already begun testing positive for the virus. We advise our members to refer these workers and yourselves immediately to the Occupational Health Department at Rutgers and to apply for COVID-19 paid leave.
4. Timesheets, telework and COVID-19 paid leave
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. Everyone, including essential staff, is eligible to apply and must work remotely when practicable. Everyone must apply. Rutgers must still negotiate with us about its approval processes, documentation requirements, and similar rules that are unfair and burdensome. Until then, see our best practices for how to utilize these programs and fill out timesheets. We encourage you to combine telework with paid leave to arrange a reduced or alternate schedule with your supervisor.
5. COVID-19 issue survey
By now you should have received an online survey via email. Please fill it out right away if you have not yet done so. If you did not receive it, please email us at email@example.com to request the link.
6. Negotiating with Rutgers
We are meeting with Vivian Fernandez, Tony Calcado and other Rutgers officials on a weekly basis along with other representatives from other Rutgers unions. We will provide you with updates as we go along. We intend to negotiate over things like pay for essential staff, vacation carryover rules, new employee orientation, processing contractual grievances, and the many other working conditions that have been impacted or may be impacted as a result of the pandemic and Rutgers’ handling of it thus far.
By order of Governor Phil Murphy, all libraries and computer labs at public and private colleges and universities are closed.
This order went into effect on March 20, 2020 at 8pm.
Thank you for your continued advocacy on behalf of yourselves and your colleagues. Designated non-essential library staff were directed to continue to come to work and operate as business as usual and putting their lives at risk. With pressure put on administration with the Rutgers Coalition of Unions, we have increased protections for the health of staff and their families.
This is when solidarity matters most. When members work together for common goals, we make things happen! Union members have power to enact changes in our working conditions. If you’re not a member yet, please join now.
In Solidarity, Christine
Please note our new address:
URA-AFT, 75 Raritan Ave. Suite 255
Highland Park, New Jersey 08904
We can still be reached by phone at 732–745-0300, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Join the URA now.