On July 23, HPAE was notified by members of our Union of the University’s intent to begin layoffs for UBHC “as the result of the unprecedented COVID-19 public health crisis which has resulted in a fiscal crisis emergency.”
As you are aware, HPAE along with the Coalition of Rutgers Unions has been attempting to bargain for a work-share furlough program to save the University money while at the same time preserving jobs. In addition, as a result of Rutgers’ declaration of a fiscal emergency, we entered into negotiations regarding our contractual raises that were to be implemented on July 1. Rutgers met with us a single time for 30 minutes, despite numerous attempts to schedule additional dates, and failed to provide any response to our proposals for a work-share furlough program.
Instead of working with us to overcome this “unprecedented COVID-19 public health crisis,” Rutgers is choosing to attack our union and our members who have kept this University running during an exceptionally challenging time, and often at risk to their personal health and safety. Through this public health crisis our members have continued to provide treatment and care to New Jersey residents most in need of support. Instead of caring for us, Rutgers spends money on billboards as part of a PR campaign thanking healthcare workers “from the bottom of our hearts” while freezing wages and laying off the same healthcare workers.
Meanwhile, as we have mentioned previously, Rutgers is barely touching its $600 million in unrestricted reserves, generated in large part through hikes in undergraduate tuition over the past several years. These reserves are a literal “rainy day” fund that could be used to balance the budget and provide support for students and staff as we battle COVID-19 and its effects on our economy. In addition, Rutgers’ most recent projections for reduced student enrollment are nowhere near as severe as anticipated.
HPAE has notified Rutgers of our intent to file a grievance under our contract language for violation of Article 4.07 Seniority, Section 3, for lack of notice regarding the decision to lay off our members. We have also demanded to bargain over the issued layoffs, and will again attempt to negotiate a work-share furlough program for our members within UBHC, as well as any other department that may be affected by layoff notices.
Should you receive a layoff notice, please notify your Union rep, Union officer, or Staff Representative immediately to understand your layoff rights and to exercise those rights to the full extent of the contract. Click for a list of union representatives.
There is no excuse for the administration’s callous action. By declaring a fiscal emergency, holding back your scheduled raises, refusing to bargain and then issuing layoffs, the administration is saying that it doesn’t want to reach an agreement with us. We will continue challenge layoffs, especially those under the guise of a manufactured “fiscal emergency crisis” to protect our membership and to preserve the rights we’ve fought for so long and hard in our current contract.
Our members have sacrificed their time, their safety, and their own mental health to mitigate this interlocking healthcare, mental health, economic, and societal crisis, and this is the treatment we get in return! We are not going to take this lying down, and need for you to join your Union leadership in this fight, as severe and direct action will likely be needed to reverse this course and defend against this heartless attack.
We will be sending out an email next week with a schedule of virtual membership meetings. Please make every attempt to attend.
Ryan Novosielski, Co-President, Local 5094
Justin O’Hea, Co-President, Local 5094