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RBHS faculty union calls on Rutgers to finalize contract amid coronavirus outbreak

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The American Association of University Professors - Biomedical and Health Sciences of New Jersey (AAUP-BHSNJ), the union representing approximately 1,400 faculty members at Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences (RBHS), is calling on the University to finalize a contract for faculty during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Diomedes Tsitouras, AAUP-BHSNJ executive director, said RBHS faculty have been working on a variety of tasks during the pandemic: working in intensive care units with infected patients, collaborating with the New Jersey Department of Health, creating personal protective equipment with 3D printing technology and developing COVID-19 tests, including the new saliva-based test, according to a press release.

Tsitouras said the union has gone without a contract for approximately two years despite its contributions during the COVID-19 crisis, according to the release.

Catherine Monteleone, AAUP-BHSNJ president, wrote a letter to RBHS Chancellor Brian Strom yesterday and said it is important for Rutgers administrators to show their appreciation for faculty through finalizing a contract.

"We hope you agree that faculty deserve not just appreciation but the University's firmest support," Monteleone said, according to the letter. "Faculty already suffer from poor morale, increased burnout and high turnover. The toll of caring for COVID-19 patients will only exacerbate these issues."

Monteleone said the University Physicians Associates faculty practice will merge with the RWJBarnabas Health system on July 1, causing uncertainty among RBHS faculties regarding how they will be paid. Additionally, she said faculty are concerned with the University's compensation proposal, which cuts salaries based on "non-specific subjective criteria," according to the letter.

"Such uncertainty and draconian measures may result in a mass exodus of talent once the crisis is averted and other universities resume hiring," she said, according to the letter.

Monteleone said having a finalized contract, including an adjusted health and safety article, provisions for family and parental leave and provisions for broader job security, will help RBHS faculty during and after the pandemic. She said there has been progress in recent months, yet these provisions have been rejected, according to the letter. She called on Strom to support RBHS faculty and these specific provisions.

"Your agreement now to these measures would send a strong message from a respected Chancellor that Rutgers University stands behind its faculty," she said, according to the letter. "It would provide a sense of hope in a time of unprecedented challenge."

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