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Deadline nearing for new contracts at Rutgers

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Collective bargaining negotiations between Rutgers University and labor unions are continuing as a June 30 deadline draws closer.

Employees represented by the American Association of University Professors and American Federation of Teachers seek a minimum pay of $15 per hour for all Rutgers employees. Other demands include guaranteed job security, gender equity, race equity, academic freedom, automatic yearly cost-of-living raises and equal pay for equal work for part-time faculty members.

“Gov. Phil Murphy has announced his intention to raise the minimum wage but it is not there,” said David Hughes, Rutgers professor of anthropology and vice president of the AAUP-AFT. “The Pay Equity Act should help but it has not been implemented so we want it to be part of collective bargaining. Even if something is covered by the law, we want it in the collective bargaining agreement.”

AAUP-AFT represents about 4,500 Rutgers employees.

Hughes said AAUP-AFT found pay discrepancies on the Rutgers University-New Brunswick campus concerning gender: female faculty in the tenured track and those who have earned tenure are being paid 2.1 percent less than their male colleagues. Female non-tenured-track faculty members are being paid 5.4 percent less than male colleagues. The AAUP-AFT is asking the administration to make their salaries the same as their male colleagues.

The AAUP-AFT conducted a salary study of tenured track faculty across campuses and detected employees at Rutgers-Newark are paid 10 percent less than their colleagues at Rutgers-New Brunswick, Hughes said.  The tenured-track faculty at Rutgers-Camden are paid 20 percent lower than their colleagues at Rutgers-New Brunswick, he said.

“We want to fix that for those two regions of New Jersey,” Hughes said. 

The AAUP-AFT is proposing a new tenure track based on teaching excellence, asking the administration to freeze tuition for undergraduates and waive tuition for doctoral students, and expand state funding of Educational Opportunity Fund programs.

The faculty, part-time lecturers and graduate employees currently bargaining for a new contract view access to affordable child care, a living wage and health care for all employees as crucial to the success of Rutgers’ mission, Hughes said.

“We, the faculty, come to Rutgers and stay on the promise of teaching the widest possible swath of the people of New Jersey,” Hughes said. “That promise and that mission are absolutely central to the conditions of our employment. So we’re bargaining for the administration to restore that promise.”

Rutgers spokeswoman Dory Devlin confirmed that negotiations are ongoing. If the administration and labor unions do not sign new contracts by June 30, they will continue to negotiate, she said.

“The collective negotiations agreements continue in effect until new agreements are negotiated,” Devlin said. “Negotiations are ongoing with several unions. Nearly 21,000 Rutgers employees are represented by 24 unions. Approximately 2,600 confidential, managerial, professional or supervisory employees are not represented by unions. We have not been advised that any unions are deferring to any other unions in their negotiations.”

But Hughes said a strike would be possible once the fall semester begins. The AAUP-AFT has met with Rutgers representatives six times since March 6 at the New Brunswick campus, he said.

“The summer would be the wrong time for a strike,” Hughes said. “When they return in the fall, people will be upset. It is a clear signal of disrespect. It is not far-fetched to think about job actions – a walk-out or one-day strike.”

He added that that if the administration and labor unions do not sign new contracts by June 30, the union, union coalition partners, students, community and political allies will take “necessary and appropriate pressure to settle all Rutgers union contracts that best serve the common good of our members, students and communities.”

Rutgers University officials presented a report from Moody’s Investor Services at an April 10 meeting showing the ratio of spendable cash and investments to operating expenses at Rutgers and peer institutions. They disputed the notion that there are unlimited reserves that can be spent to increase salaries.

Rutgers’ rate was at less than 0.4 percent, lower than its fellow Big Ten institutions.

The Rutgers University administration concludes that every 1 percent increase in salary requires a 1.3 percent increase in tuition and fees. Hughes disputes this assertion.

“Rutgers runs a budget surplus every year and is currently banking close to $800 million in accumulated surpluses, known as unrestricted reserves,” Hughes said. “Hence, we are bargaining for salary increases and a tuition freeze. Rutgers has the money, and they can no longer fool us into believing otherwise.”

More on contracts at Rutgers

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David Hutter

David Hutter

David Hutter grew up in Darien, Conn., and covers higher education, transportation and manufacturing for NJBIZ. He can be reached at dhutter@njbiz.com.

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