Yesterday, our union’s Executive Council voted to join other unions in our Coalition in negotiating with the university over a work-sharing program and job security.
We will propose to management that our members accept a weekly half-day furlough (the equivalent of one afternoon a week, worth over $10 million in savings from our unit alone) through March 15. As under our proposal last spring, you could (thanks to the federal unemployment supplement passed in the recent COVID relief bill) maintain your full income if you apply for unemployment during this period. We are also prepared to accept a deferral of our canceled raise, due last July, for the rest of the school year.
In return for accepting furloughs and a raise deferral, we will demand: 1) a guarantee of no layoffs through July 2022; 2) an $8 million fund for TA/GA funding extensions; 3) PTL reappointments returned to Fall 2019 levels by Fall 2021; and 4) scheduling payment of deferred raises.
With this proposal, we are again uniting with our sibling unions in the Coalition and using our power as full-time faculty and grad workers to fight for all Rutgers workers, particularly those who are more vulnerable to further layoffs and cuts. Thanks to the COVID relief bill, we have an opportunity to put our people-centered alternative back in action.
Below, you’ll find a brief FAQ about this proposal. We’ll have more information, including a more detailed FAQ, available next week if the university shows an interest in reaching an agreement. But we wanted to let you know now about this important and promising development. Like last spring, we’ll try to answer all your questions over the coming days. And be assured: if we reach an agreement with management, our full membership will vote on whether to approve it.
Todd and Becky
Todd Wolfson, President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
Rebecca Givan, Vice President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
Rutgers AAUP-AFT Facebook page: https://facebook.com/RUaaup/
Follow us on Twitter and Instagram: @ruaaup
What is work-sharing?
Under a work-sharing program, employees work reduced hours and are paid less by their employer proportionate to this “furlough” time—one half day per week through mid-March in the case of our new proposal—but the difference is made up through government unemployment benefits. Under New Jersey law, we can get unemployment insurance for 80 percent of our pay for furloughed time. The federal unemployment supplement of $300 a week would make up the difference. Rutgers would save well over $10 million in payroll costs through mid-March (when the federal unemployment booster is set to expire), and we would have the ability to fully replace our income.
What is different about our proposal compared to last spring?
The main difference is that our current proposal is smaller and simplified. We are proposing that all of our members take an equal furlough of one half day per week through mid-March. Also, because of agreements made with management since last spring, many unions in the Coalition can’t join us this time—though those putting forward this proposal are by far the largest in the Coalition.
Management rejected work-sharing last spring. Why should we think they’ll agree now?
There’s no guarantee, of course, but we have a few reasons to hope management won’t reject us again. First, the negotiations last spring took place in the last days of the Barchi administration. President Jonathan Holloway has said he wants a better relationship with unions and to protect our “beloved community.” His actions haven’t yet matched his words, but we want to give him this opportunity to steer a different course. Also, state political leaders, including Gov. Phil Murphy, have told us they want Rutgers to reach a work-sharing agreement that protects jobs. We’ve been assured that Murphy will communicate this to Rutgers management. Almost all Rutgers employees who are not represented by a union were put into a work-sharing program (that is currently ongoing). The program was implemented successfully, yielding significant savings.
Would the 10 percent missing from our paychecks really be made up by unemployment?
Yes, because of the $300-a-week unemployment supplement paid to everyone approved for state-level unemployment benefits. In fact, workers with lower salaries might even come out ahead because they would receive the full $300 each week. Sen. Cory Booker and other members of Congress say this was exactly how they intended the supplemental payments to work when they were first enacted in the CARES Act last year: use federal money to keep laid-off and furloughed workers whole. The state Department of Labor approved Rutgers’ current work-sharing program and would approve ours, too, if we reach an agreement with management.
But I’ll have to apply for unemployment. Won’t that be a nightmare?
We don’t want to sugarcoat this, and it will be up to you whether you apply or not (neither the university nor the union can apply on your behalf). We’ve been told that Rutgers has a special portal to handle unemployment applications, that it works efficiently, and that payments come quickly. We’ll insist that management devote staff to helping us apply. But we can’t guarantee that you won’t run into problems or delays. And this will be an added hassle at a time when we’re all coping with increased workloads. Ultimately, though, we believe the difficulties are worth it if our union can win job security for staff, TA/GA funding extensions, and PTL rehiring.
Will everyone be able to furlough and/or get unemployment?
Anyone authorized to work at Rutgers is eligible for unemployment. Management would work with us to exclude anyone in a precarious situation—for example, due to a specific visa status. Other members who might be excluded are faculty whose salaries are funded by grants that require work during the period through mid-March.
What does it mean to furlough? Am I supposed to work less?
Under work-sharing, you would not be paid by Rutgers for one half-day of work a week, and in theory, you should take an afternoon off to compensate. But our jobs aren’t built around clocking in and clocking out, and your class time won’t be reduced by 10 percent. It will be up to individuals to adjust their work routine. You are within your rights to work 10 percent less and decline meetings during your furlough time, but many of us will change little about our schedule.
What about the proposal to defer our raises? What does that mean?
We are currently in arbitration (postponed since the fall) over management’s declaration of a fiscal emergency and cancelation of our raises that were due July 1. If we make this proposal, we would offer to abandon the arbitration and accept that our raises won’t show up in our paychecks until next July. We would be giving up the extra income we should have gotten from our raises for this school year, saving Rutgers more than $15 million. But we would demand that next July, the contractually negotiated raises for both 2020–21 and 2021–22 go into effect, so we won’t fall any further behind.
We’re preparing a detailed FAQ for next week. Send your questions to [email protected] and we’ll try our best to answer all of them.