Update on COVID-19 Issues

Revised 3/29/2020

Rutgers’ expansion of telework and special paid leave allows for a mixture of safety, job continuity and sustained income—our most important goals. This is a good thing.

On the other hand, we already announced to you that Rutgers’ methods in administering them are unduly burdensome and were not negotiated with Rutgers unions.

We will take action to fight back on the unfair rules, but we also need to prioritize based on time and safety. This helps our union representatives act quickly for the most critical concerns. Please keep these things in mind:

PRIORITY #1 – your safety, job continuity and pay

Every non-essential worker should be home now, whether for telework, paid leave or a combination of both. While we understand Rutgers’ announced rules for requesting and documenting are unfair, report back to us IMMEDIATELY if you are:

  1. Non-essential staff mandated to return to the workplace,
  2. Essential staff mandated to return to work for non-essential reasons (i.e. different from the Governor’s list) or to an unsafe or unprotected workplace,
  3. refused telework,
  4. refused pay,
  5. refused paid leave,
  6. required to work outside your normal hours to “make up” lost time (e.g. told to work all night in exchange for your paid leave during the day),
  7. mandated to use your own paid time off,
  8. threatened with disciplinary action, pay docking or similar form of retaliation.

Only report these to us now if you get an actual negative decision or directive. Otherwise, keep requesting, emailing and pushing through the administrative stuff until you get a definitive YES or NO from management. Stay home under all circumstances and while you are corresponding with management.

PRIORITY #2 – Everything else

Document everything and forward your concerns to us when you can. We will be fighting Rutgers on the legal front, collective action and through negotiations for a while. Put all requests to Rutgers and your supervisors in writing. Save all copies. Keep a careful log of everything said and done from now on and be ready to share it with us.

In the meantime, here are some best practices for dealing with the RU screw:

1. Be proactive and arrange a reduced schedule with your manager – Try to always be “available to work” from home, if possible, during your regular hours. Make it known to your supervisor. However, if you truly cannot work a full day because of illness or childcare, consider working only a partial work day and charge the rest to paid COVID-19 related leave. As long as you are paid for a full day’s work, it can be broken up between COVID-19 leave and telework. Managers need to be flexible to your family and safety needs. And you need to be flexible to adapt to a new work environment. It is a team effort—communication is key.

2. TimesheetsLack of work? — Make sure you always write “available to work” on your daily work plan. It means you are available to take calls, respond to emails, receive supervisor directives—it is work. Do not volunteer to go back to the office to get work. Instead, your manager must realize that some typical work time and tasks will be lost due to self-isolation needs—we are all adapting. Get creative and proactive with your work tasks. Take online training, build your skills or other self-paced work when you cannot perform regular work tasks. Call a colleague or client to talk about a project. These can be reported on your time sheet.  We recommend that you report blocks of time larger than 15 minutes increments on the sheets.

3. Agree to disagree when it comes to using your own paid time off (PTO)- Do not actually agree to charge any COVID-19 related absence to your own PTO (i.e. your V, S, PH or AL time) other than NJESL. Just agree to disagree. If your supervisor demands that you do or threatens you, contact us immediately. We are fighting Rutgers’ illegal rules for documentation and denials. We can help you later to recover your PTO if you keep careful documentation, especially if it is charged without your agreement.

4. Essential staff who still report to the workplace – do not agree to work under unsafe or unprotected conditions. All personal protective equipment and recommended safety guidelines must be followed. Otherwise, object to the work for safety reasons. Do not refuse to work, but simply state that you cannot work until it is safe. You should also consider isolating at home based on the Governor’s guidelines if/until it is safe to report back to the workplace. Do not agree to return to campus for non-essential tasks. Only essential jobs actually performing essential tasks under safe conditions should be required. Everyone, including essential staff, is eligible to apply and must work remotely when practicable. Everyone must apply according to the Governor’s Executive Order 107.

Join the Union


When we work together, we can win!

By order of Governor Phil Murphy, all libraries and computer labs at public and private colleges and universities are closed.  

This order went into effect on March 20, 2020 at 8pm.

Thank you for your continued advocacy on behalf of yourselves and your colleagues. Designated non-essential library staff were directed to continue to come to work and operate as business as usual and putting their lives at risk. With pressure put on administration with the Rutgers Coalition of Unions, we have increased protections for the health of staff and their families.

This is when solidarity matters most. When members work together for common goals, we make things happen! Union members have power to enact changes in our working conditions. If you’re not a member yet, please join now.

In Solidarity, Christine

Please note our new address:
URA-AFT, 75 Raritan Ave. Suite 255
Highland Park, New Jersey 08904

We can still be reached by phone at 732–745-0300, or email at union@ura-aft.org

Join the URA now.

Facebook logo@ura1766


Barchi, Do Staff Lives Matter?


(Corrected, originally emailed to members on 3/20/2020)

What to follow and not follow from Vivian’s memo:

Yesterday, Vivian Fernandez’ memo outlined a host of new procedures that play games with your safety. Her announced policies are illegal, a violation of our union contract and very much NOT in concert with the Governor’s directives and recommendations of public health experts.

Here is a roadmap for navigating the good and bad of this policy:


  • This policy was announced without negotiating with unions. It is a violation of article 52 of our contract among other things and a violation of the Public Employer-Employee Relations Act.
  • OneSource has failed to administer the simplest of tasks since its inception and will cause mismanagement beyond our imagination putting us at further safety risk. See our alternative recommendations below.
  • We intend to negotiate with Rutgers, not only with these policies, but also how they impact secondary policies such as vacation carryover rules before July.


  • This policy addresses the core concerns appropriately – extending the use of telecommuting to everyone and waiving the use of your own paid time off for COVID-19 related absences.
  • It makes sense to extend these options—as they were announced—through April 30. Although, we continue to think any end date is very inappropriate at this stage.


  1. When in doubt, call out – The new policy gives managers too many ways to be unreasonable and make you unsafe. They can deny telecommuting without giving good reason. They can deny your absence if you do not jump through various administrative hoops.Here is the best solution if you must be absent to avoid a health and safety risk—rely on item I(3) outlined in Fernandez’ memo: “An employee is undergoing a period of self-quarantine or isolation pursuant to public health assessment recommendations”. This is applying to everyone every day. If you are unfairly charged time against your own PTO or docked pay—we will help you fight it after-the-fact. Safety comes first.
  2. Skip OneSource – always notify your supervisor first. OneSource is overwhelmed and riddled with malfunction. Article 44 of our union contract only requires that you report an absence within 15 minutes of the start of your day. We recommend calling AND emailing your supervisor to provide the proper notice. You can then go through OneSource once you have time.
  3. Documentation and deadlines should not prevent your safety – First call out for safety. If you can find documentation later, provide it. If you cannot within 5 days, we can fight it afterwards. Rutgers had no authority to create this rule without negotiating with us first. Also, S, V, PH and AL are YOUR earned days to use. Rutgers cannot simply deduct them without your permission.
  4. Use NJ earned sick leave (NJESL) – We have a law on our side. You can designate up to 40 hours of your sick time as NJESL for your family’s COVID-19-related needs without jumping through hoops. Simply email your supervisor that you wish to apply those hours to your absence.
  5. Non-essential staff — For all those non-essential staff that are being told to return to work in person, please establish in writing that your duties are services that are critical to ensuring the health, welfare and safety of others.  Please verify that the University is providing all disinfecting supplies and health protections (hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, masks, gloves and others) including screening materials (thermometers) before you return.  The University should not frivolously endanger any employee and should provide an environment that is free from hazards. If you feel unsafe, inform your department your working conditions are unsafe, and you need to go home.
  6. Essential personnel” does not mean all your work is essential– Essential personnel are not performing essential tasks always. When called back to work, ask for a reason in writing with a breakdown of the essential tasks. Forward the response to us at union@ura-aft.org. Only those performing critical duties for patients, students and essential operation should be called to campus and only to perform those duties.   If you feel unsafe, rely on our recommendation in #1 above to avoid coming to work, or inform your department your working conditions are unsafe and you need to go home.   Also, apply for telecommuting for all the things that are not truly essential.
  7. Do not let timesheets intimidate you – You can adhere to the rule without fear of being charged PTO, docked pay or threats of poor performance. We encourage you to work whenever you can, of course; but this illegal rule must still be negotiated and we have your back! Every day that you are home and ready to work should be listed on your time sheet as “available to work” for the entire work day. Do not leave any hours blank. Do not report any hours as “non-work” unless you truly cannot work for a legitimate excused absence.
  8. New probation rules are a violation of our union contract. We are fighting that.

We will further evaluate Bob Barchi’s failed leadership during these tough times with your safety in mind. Updates will follow, and please update us with your situations by emailing union@ura-aft.org.

Local 1766