A coalition of 19 unions at Rutgers University is asking the administration to consider a furlough program for its employees instead of laying off as many as 1,000 low-wage workers.
Many of the workers who could be laid off work in the dining halls or other facilities at Rutgers campuses across New Jersey, the unions said.
“When these crises hit, they should not be solved on the backs of the most vulnerable,” said Todd Wolfson, president of AAUP-AFT, the union representing faculty and graduate workers.
A university spokesperson, Dory Devlin, acknowledged that Rutgers is in discussions with unions on a furlough program that could save more than 1,000 jobs, but declined to elaborate.
“We are hopeful, too, than an agreement on a furlough program with our other unions can be achieved, that jobs can be preserved, and that the university’s mission can continue to be met,” she said.
The unions want Rutgers to execute short-term furloughs from a pool of about 30,000 employees in the educational and health systems. Most employees, except for essential workers, would get a furlough under the plan, Wolfson said. The “work-share” approach would allow nearly all furloughed employees to replace lost wages with state unemployment benefits and a $600-a-week federal aid supplement, Wolfson said.
The unions say their plan would save the university about $100 million and the university could tap its nearly $600 million unrestricted reserve fund for additional funds to cover revenue losses.
The coronavirus has wreaked havoc on college finances across the country. Locally, Temple University President Richard M. Englert announced this month that the school had decided against furloughs.
Pennsylvania State University in April announced it would cut by 50% the pay of about 2,000 workers whose jobs were not needed from May 4 through June 30.
In return for agreeing to the furloughs, the unions are asking Rutgers for a guarantee of no layoffs through fiscal year 2020-21, Wolfson said.