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

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

Members: let’s share our resources to thrive!

In these uncertain times, let’s share our resources to thrive!

As we all continue to adapt to the changing times, I hope you and your families are well. Our union has been working hard to advocate for the health and safety for all and want to share some additional resources that will help with some of the changes in our lives.

In these uncertain times, with all the changes at Rutgers, we are adjusting to working from home, trying to keep focus as pandemic news continually updates, keeping ourselves and our families healthy, and the myriad of other things that impact each of us. It is more important than ever to keep communicating and sharing our resources to support each other.

We have created a Google Doc where we can share our best practices and success stories as we all develop different ways to cope to our new reality.   I encourage you all to take a minute and add to the Google Doc and share tips that you have developed to help as many are working from home. I look forward to learning from all of you as you share your experiences and frustrations.   We can learn from each other’s successes and share the knowledge on how we make Rutgers work every day.

URA members Best practices for thriving during COVID-19 pandemic  (link to Google Doc provided to members only).

URA-AFT owns and maintains this Google account and reserves the right to edit any comments that may be offensive, vulgar or abusive or restrict access as necessary.

Please continue to take action.

In addition, I have compiled a brief list of resources that may help with some aspects of your telecommuting life. If you have others, please share on the Google Doc above. Please comment if any of the suggested information is found to be inaccurate or outdated.

Keep yourself healthy

Tips for telecommuting

Childcare for essential workers

Stay active inside

COVID-19 updates

If your family member or friends have lost their jobs

Housing  and other help


Many food stores are delivering to home but appointments are limited

Don’t forget, please share your best practices and success stories with all of us through this Google Doc: URA members Best practices for thriving during COVID-19 pandemic.

Stay safe and well.

In solidarity,
Christine O’Connell, President

Response to clarify new hiring practices

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:

  1. The self-initiated reclassification process is protected by Article 35.
  2. In grade increases are protected by Article 39, Salary Adjustments.
  3. 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.

In solidarity,

Christine O’Connell

Local 1766