NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – A tentative agreement reached Friday between a labor union and Rutgers University has likely saved about 450 jobs that were in jeopardy as part of the school’s coronavirus COVID-19 budget cuts.

According to a joint statement by American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Presidents Daniel Duffy and Joy Willinger and Rutgers Senior Vice President Vivian Fernandez, the tentative agreement for a shared work/furlough program will protect jobs in the maintenance, custodial and public safety areas.

Those jobs are within the Division of Institutional Planning and Operations and the Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center, according to a copy of the statement provided to TAPinto by a Rutgers spokesperson.

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The tentative agreement must still be ratified by the union membership, and the shared work program is subject to approval by the State of New Jersey.

AFSCME Local 888 represents maintenance, dining, housing, facilities, grounds, agricultural, security officers and emergency management workers. AFSCME Local 1761 represents clerical, office, laboratory, technical and dispatch workers.

According to the statement, “As you are aware, we have been working to explore ways in which to collaborate constructively to mitigate the financial impact of COVID-19 on our campus community while avoiding layoffs.  The tentative agreement we are announcing today is the result of that hard work and is a credit to what can be accomplished when we focus on our important shared goals.”

Rutgers sent students home in March and commenced online learning for tens of thousands of students after spring break in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 254th commencement ceremony was held virtually and all on-campus activities have been canceled through the end of the summer.

Rutgers President Robert Barchi, who addressed the Board of Governors at the April 7 meeting, said the COVID-19 pandemic will cost the university about $200 million in lost revenue this quarter.

At the time, he said a drop in clinical revenues, an expected decline in enrollment and other factors will create “challenging losses in the coming fiscal year.”

The Coalition of Rutgers Unions, an ad-hoc group of unions representing some 20,000 Rutgers employees, applauded the agreement. However, in a press release provided to TAPinto New Brunswick, the coalition is still hoping to save hundreds of part-time lecturer positions.

“We’re happy that AFSCME avoided the 400-plus layoffs, and we appreciate the leadership of Daniel Duffy and other AFSCME leaders in achieving this,” said Todd Wolfson, president of Rutgers AAUP-AFT, the union representing full-time faculty and graduate workers. “And we’re glad the administration saw the light and has adopted some elements of our proposals to prevent layoffs and safeguard people’s health insurance.

“But there is still critical work to be done. Some 300 adjunct faculty have been told they won’t be rehired this fall. Graduate workers face an uncertain future if the administration doesn’t honor our call that their funding packages be extended for a year. Teamsters and members of URA-AFT still face mass layoff threats, and 620 seasonal employees who are members of AFSCME have lost their guarantee of a job to return to this fall. We plan to keep mobilizing our members to fight for all of our community.”