NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – More than 20,000 Rutgers employees could have their scheduled 3% raises postponed and others could lose their jobs as the university deals with a projected $260 million deficit caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The school has declared a fiscal emergency as referenced in certain labor union contracts, which then triggers a mandatory 21-day negotiating period.
During the time, the university and its labor unions “investigate” the next step before any action is formally taken by Rutgers, according to a statement provided to TAPinto New Brunswick by a university spokesperson.
That action could include the postponement of a scheduled 3% wage hike that is scheduled to kick in on July 1.
During a video conference last week with leaders of a coalition of 19 labor unions representing more than 20,000 employees at Rutgers, Christine O’Connell called for the university to take a “humane” approach to negotiations. O’Connell, the president of the Union of Rutgers Administrators, is urging the university to “do as little harm as possible.”
The coalition issued a press release Wednesday in which it said Rutgers was “turning its back” on a plan calling for work-sharing furloughs that would prevent layoffs and program cuts.
According to the release, the black and Latino workers among its ranks will be hardest hit. So, it is calling on President-elect Jonathan Holloway to help bring about an agreement that will “protect the most vulnerable and bolster the university’s financial health.”
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Rutgers President Robert Barchi announced March 10 that students were to head home early for spring break.
As Gov. Phil Murphy continued to sign executive orders to institute social distancing, the students commenced online instruction and have been away from the Banks of the Ol’ Raritan since. Spring sports seasons were canceled, Rutgers Day was scrapped and Rutgers’ 254th commencement ceremony was a fun-spirited but taped video.
All summer on-campus events have been canceled and, as far as the fall semester, a spokesperson for Rutgers said, “We are still assessing final plans for undergraduate education on our campuses for the fall.”
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 university is drawing on reserves because it is facing a deficit for fiscal year 2021 even after taking measures to fill the more than $260 million deficit projected for the balance of the fiscal year 2020 and the next fiscal year which begins July 1.
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, a shared work/furlough program reached on June 5 will protect about 450 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.
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.
Todd Wolfson, president of Rutgers AAUP-AFT, the union representing full-time faculty and graduate workers, said last week that some 300 adjunct faculty have been told they won’t be rehired this fall. He said that graduate workers, teamsters and members of the URA-AFT “still face mass layoff threats.”
Also, Wolfson said some 600 season employees who are members of AFSCME have lost their guarantee of a job to return this fall.
“We have been negotiating in good faith and intend to continue to do so, especially during this critical 21-day period,” a university spokesperson said. “We just reached an agreement on a furlough program with AFSCME that will save 450 jobs and are hopeful that more agreements can be reached.”