Jobs, Healthcare and Safety
You have probably heard rumors regarding layoffs and furloughs from various managers and schools that make the decision seem inevitable. You may have heard threats to union leaders that Rutgers will declare a fiscal emergency and withhold the raises scheduled for July 1. As union members, we recognize the economic dangers of this crisis…we also remember how Rutgers exploited workers in past crises, and pocketed the profits. The Executive Board of the URA has passed a resolution that empowered me, as President of the URA, to formally represent our needs at the negotiation table.
In the past week, the Coalition of Rutgers Unions met with management and offered a proposal that prioritize employees’ jobs, healthcare, and safety as the University responds to the COVID-19 crisis. On the economic side, the union proposal protects the most vulnerable in our workforce, and demands shared sacrifice from those at the top levels of administration. Collectively, AFT unions (URA-AFT, HPAE-AFT and Rutgers AAUP-AFT) make up about 70% of the coalition by membership.
Our plan demands savings that include spending some of the $583 million dollars Rutgers holds in unrestricted reserves.
Our plan leverages State and Federal legislation to avoid the pain of layoffs for both the employee and the employer. First, we expect all levels of management to take furloughs along with unionized workers. Second, if we reach an agreement of a “work sharing” program, furloughed employees will be able to replace or make more than their lost income through unemployment benefits and the CARES act passed by Congress earlier this year.
By utilizing our plan, the University would save around a $100 million dollars in payroll costs without a without inflicting the pain and uncertainty of lost wages and health benefits. We deliberately did our calculations for unionized employees to include those who would receive full salary replacement through unemployment insurance and for some, an increase in compensation, by taking advantage of the extra $600 a week authorized under the CARES act.
Our furlough proposal runs to the end of July, when the CARES act is currently scheduled to end. The Coalition is working with the Department of Labor to create a process for claiming unemployment benefits with minimal delay. As we learn more of those details, the URA will help members with that paperwork as needed.
Every day that management delays in implementing our proposal is dollars lost to the University as they continue to claim they are in poor financial shape. In return for money-saving furloughs, we have made demands, including: no declaration of a fiscal emergency, no layoffs for FY21, extending layoff recall time through the hiring freeze, expanding vacation carryover, creating a hardship fund, and union representation in planning a safe re-opening process.
We call on Rutgers to respond to our proposal without further delay. With the savings that we have proposed, Rutgers will be well prepared financially throughout the pandemic and beyond to continue the mission of the University and provide exemplary service to students, staff, community, and all stakeholders in New Jersey.
If negotiations with Rutgers management require any changes to our existing collective bargaining agreement, those changes will be presented to members for ratification. Only union members are entitled to vote. Any vote will be held remotely, under the changes to our union constitution which we ratified in 2019.
It is more important than ever to have our voices heard as Rutgers makes plans that impact our lives. If you haven’t joined as a member yet, this is your chance to have a voice. If you believe that Rutgers will look out for you first, you will be disappointed. Through our union, the URA, we say that #weRnotdisposable and our work is integral to University. Please join us now to protect your future.
Take action now.
Take a pic of yourself with working from home with a sign that reads #weRnotdisposable.
Tweet #weRnotdisposable at @RutgersU and @union1766. Put it on your FB and share with us. If you don’t have social media, email it to us and we will compile on our website.
Stay safe and well. We will keep you updated as negotiations progress.