NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – Hundreds of Rutgers’ Biomedical and Health Science faculty have joined the front line in the battle against COVID-19.

They are working in the state’s Health Department, tending to ICU patients in hospitals, helping to develop enhanced COVID-19 testing and making personal protection equipment with 3-D printers.

Their work was even recognized by Rutgers President Robert Barchi, who wrote last month, “We are witnessing real acts of heroism in our hospitals and clinics, and our own clinicians at Rutgers are among those heroes.”

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Their work continues, although their labor contract with Rutgers expired on July 1, 2018.

Catherine Monteleone, president of AAU-BHSNJ, is asking the university to reconsider some of the sticking points in negotiations between the union that represents some 1,400 clinical and research faculty members and the school’s administration.

In a letter dated today – a copy of which has been obtained by TAPinto New Brunswick - Monteleone is asking Brian Strom, the chancellor of Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences, to clarify the role of family leave, including parental leave, and to provide broader job security concerning faculty appointments.

According to the letter, the university has insisted on a compensation proposal that cuts faculty salaries “based on non-specific subjective criteria.”

“Such uncertainty and draconian measures may result in a mass exodus of talent once the crisis is averted and other universities resume hiring,” according to the letter.

The contract situation was raised at car caravan rally outside Barchi’s home on Busch Campus on Saturday, when protestors gather to voice their anger over what they said was a lack of distribution of personal protection equipment to the  BHSNJ faculty treating ICU patients and a plan to trim the number of part-time lecturers at the school.

AAUP-BHSNJ Executive Director Diomedes Tsitouras painted a contentious picture of the relationship between the union and administration when he conveyed a story about faculty member’s recent grievance meeting he attended. Tsitouras said the while they were meeting with administration, a letter of non-renewal appointment was delivered to the faculty member’s office.

He wants the AAUP-BHSNJ to receive some of the same considerations given to the AAUP-AFT’s 5,000 or so members when they agreed to a new contract in April 2019.

“We have been asking for a lot of the same things AAUP-AFT faculty already enjoy: parental leave, longer appointment periods, no having an appointment without being arbitrarily non-renewed,” he said. “The simple things that anybody with any kind of – whether they be a doctor or nondoctor faculty member should enjoy that simple dignity.”

Responding to a request for a comment on the negotiations with the AAUP-AFT, a Rutgers spokesperson told TAPinto New Brunswick, “Negotiations with the American Association of University Professors Biomedical and Health Sciences of New Jersey (AAUP-BHSNJ) are ongoing. The parties have conducted 58 negotiation sessions in their efforts to reach an agreement. Mandatorily negotiable terms and conditions of employment will be discussed at the negotiating table with the appropriate bargaining team representatives from the administration and the union.”

Strom was a guest at Gov. Phil Murphy’s daily COVID-19 update last week, where he touted Rutgers’ breakthrough COVID-19 saliva test.

He did not mention the ongoing negotiations with the AAUP-BHSNJ.

Despite what he called “tensions” between the sides, Tsitouras said they were close to finalizing a labor agreement in March.

“Then COVID-19 came and spread,” he said, “and we haven’t heard from them since.”

According to Monteleone’s letter, an agreement on a contract “would send a strong message from a respected Chancellor that Rutgers University stands behind its faculty. It would provide a sense of hope in a time of unprecedented challenge.”