As you may know, Rutgers has released their “Return to Rutgers” and “Return to Research” plans, and has begun to direct a limited return to on-site staffing, including employees in research, libraries, some contracted office locations at UCHC and the Child Health Unit, and some members at UBHC. As we continue to have concerns about our members’ health and safety, we demanded to bargain with the University over the impacts of a return to campus on our members. If you have been working from home and are notified that you are being directed to return to campus, *please let us know!*
At our first negotiations session on July 28th, the Coalition of Rutgers Unions met with University administration to begin impact bargaining over the reopening of the University. We presented Rutgers with a comprehensive proposal that includes protecting the health and well being of all staff, faculty, and students at this institution.
We presented a proposal to the University clear guidelines on COVID testing that proposes that the University and the Unions will agree upon required testing for those returning to work or who are current working on site. Access to COVID testing, including the type and locations of testing sites, would be provided to unions and employees with university employees receiving priority testing. All costs for testing would be through insurance, with the University being responsible for any out-of-pocket costs to the employee. Privacy of health care information was stressed in the proposal to protect employees.
Lack of PPE has been a huge issue during the course of the pandemic response at the University. Our proposal includes a University obligation to provide adequate PPE for all staff and an agreement that, if staff chose to do so, negotiations unit employee can supply their own PPE without fear of discipline. The proposal contains a mask requirement when staff are unable to social distance at the worksite, and a responsibility of Rutgers to disinfect worksites daily to minimize the transmission of COVID, with cleaning schedules provided for each worksite. In addition, we proposed that the University is to provide cleaning supplies/hand sanitizer for all employees use and properly ventilated worksites.
Under this proposal Telecommuting would extend through the beginning of the Spring 2021 Semester, or until recession of the Executive Order 107 designating a State of Emergency for NJ. Office equipment is to be provided to staff working from home. The University would be required to give notice of return to work and we are seeking expanded COVID Paid Leave benefits for those who are unable to return to work.
In addition, the proposal seeks to extend vacation carry over and reinstatement of any vacation time lost in the new fiscal year. We have proposed a parking credit for all time not used since March 2020. We are demanding that the Union have access to all buildings and online orientations per the Workplace Democracy Enhancement Act, and the establishment of a Health and Safety Committee for each building on campus to monitor health and safety concerns.
We are also supporting our fellow union brothers and sisters of the AAUP with regards to issues pertaining to Course Conversion and Course Delivery as they prepare for the upcoming semester of remote learning.
Rutgers did not respond to any proposals at this session but asked a number of questions regarding the contents. Our next bargaining session is scheduled for August 5th.
Ryan Novosielski, Co-President, Local 5094
Justin O’Hea, Co-President, Local 5094
Cynthia McDougall, President Local 5089
Sabrina Brown-Oliver, VP, Local 5089