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.

Protect Rutgers Staff Workers From COVID-19

Staff members are part of our community and they deserve to be treated with the same consideration and respect as students and faculty. Their lives are just as important as our own. Please sign this petition to stand in solidarity with staff workers at Rutgers and make it known that RU’s display of negligence towards the health of staff is unacceptable.

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Rutgers faculty and staff, unable to work remotely, raise concerns with news of another coronavirus case on campus

By Ted Sherman | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com and J. Dale Shoemaker | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Rutgers University sent most of its students home last week over mounting concerns about exposure to coronavirus.

But some faculty and university employees — unable, or not permitted to work remotely — question whether the state university is doing enough to protect them from potential exposure, after a medical student tested positive this week for coronavirus.

Many departments are having people come to work,” said Christine O’Connell, president of the Union of Rutgers Administrators-American Federation of Teachers. “This is a huge place and a lot of it is very top down and small departments have a lot of authority.”

[…]

O’Connell, though, said not everyone has been given the choice to work from home. She said decisions whether about telecommuting are being made inconsistently, and many of requests are being denied.

My greater concern is that Rutgers has directed staff to continue to come to work, putting staff members and their families at risk,” said O’Connell. “We have thousands of people who are being directed to report to work.”

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