We’re writing to you with an update on the arbitration proceedings over our withheld raises after management’s declaration of a “fiscal emergency.”
Arbitration between management and unions in the Coalition of Rutgers Unions began on October 9. The arbitrator’s decision will be limited to whether the administration properly invoked the “subject to” language in our contracts and is suffering a “fiscal emergency.” After opening statements, we began a period of exploring whether a settlement was possible. We had previously made an offer to accept deferral of our raises for one year in return for a guarantee against layoffs in staff unions, health coverage for already laid-off workers, and a one-year extension of funding for graduate students. The administration rejected this offer.
Later in discussions, we made a further good-faith effort to reach an agreement. We offered to postpone arbitration until the end of next February—by which time Congress and the White House may have agreed on a stimulus package—and accept a delay of our raises through that date, while staff unions offered the possibility of a furlough day for their members, again in return for a no-layoff guarantee. We would be in a better position post-election to negotiate a settlement or arbitrate the case for raises to be paid and grad funding to be extended.
Once again, management has said no. The offer of deferring our raises and, by our staff union colleagues, of a full furlough day would have would have saved the university millions of dollars, far more than layoffs. In effect, we offered to pay for the job security of all members. But as when they rejected more than $100 million in savings from our work-sharing proposal, management wants to keep their power to impose layoffs at all costs. Not even our efforts to win full restoration of state funding removed the threat of layoffs. This is simply not a people-centered approach to the pandemic.
Our unions agreed among ourselves to postpone arbitration until early next year. Since we have to disprove management’s claim that they are suffering a “fiscal emergency,” it would be advantageous if the next administration, after the November elections, has agreed on a COVID relief measure that includes funding for Rutgers and other higher ed institutions.
We want to be clear: We don’t believe that Rutgers is suffering a fiscal emergency—it has hundreds of millions of dollars in unrestricted reserves at its disposal.
In the meantime, management can and probably will issue more layoff orders. They have the discretion to do so, and we must fight them in every way we can.
As Christine O’Connell, president of URA, wrote to her union’s members, “I ask you to reach out to every state and local legislator to call President Holloway to accept our proposal. It is incredible that Holloway aspires for Rutgers to be a ‘beloved community’ while management simultaneously continues to devastate that same community through layoffs and loss of health care and other benefits.”
When we fought and won the battle to get a full state appropriation for Rutgers, we said to legislators that the appropriation should be tied to a no layoff clause. Many in government agreed. It is now time to return to this question. We must ask our legislators to demand that Rutgers offer its workers job security in the midst of the pandemic, since the University received its full appropriation. If Rutgers wants to cut back on its budget, we suggest they focus their attention on the expanding number of upper administrators who earn hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Todd and Becky
Todd Wolfson, President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
Rebecca Givan, Vice President, Rutgers AAUP-AFT
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Read how Rutgers AAUP-AFT is confronting the crisis here.