Following the University’s response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, Rutgers’s health and academic unions held a social distancing car protest yesterday that led to University President Robert L. Barchi’s estate, according to a press release.
The Daily Targum previously reported the steps Rutgers is taking to combat the financial effects of COVID-19. These steps include a 5 or 10 percent pay cut for certain members of the Rutgers administration, use of the University’s reserve funds and upholding the previous announcement of a University hiring freeze.
“Compared to most of its peers across the country, Rutgers has been uniquely impacted by the pandemic. We are located in the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States, creating challenges around both the length of our expected recovery and our ability to attract new students,” Barchi said, the Targum reported. “Perhaps no other state government has been hit as hard financially as New Jersey, which has necessitated the freezing of many appropriations, including a significant portion of Rutgers funding.”
This protest was initiated to urge the University to provide adequate pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) to its healthcare workers, finalize a contract with approximately 1,400 doctors and stop the lay off of the University’s adjunct faculty, according to the release.
The Health Professionals and Allied Employees (HPAE) Local 5089 is a union that represents registered nurses in New Jersey’s prison system, according to the release. These nurses are employed by Rutgers University Correctional Health Care (UCHC) and have said they were not provided with the necessary amount of PPE to prevent transmission of COVID-19.
“Our members were widely issued one N95 respirator and were instructed to reuse it indefinitely,” said Sabrina Brown-Oliver, vice president of HPAE Local 5089. “Such an extreme reuse of practice is not acceptable anywhere and creates greater exposure to staff and inmates. We need PPE now!”
In addition to this, these unions are asking for Rutgers to provide healthcare to all University employees and community residents, be fully transparent in its financial plans, commit to offering hazard pay to essential workers and allow the labor union to be involved in job continuity, as well as work reassignment decisions, according to the release.
Prior to the protest, a message was sent to approximately 20,000 union employees under the Coalition of Rutgers Unions, according to the release.
“This kind of austerity — maximum pain for minimum gain — makes no sense,” according to the message. “Meanwhile, (approximately) 250 in senior management continue to take home more than $250,000 each for an annual cost of $80 million. The fact that it is these same managers who are making decisions to deprive those who barely earn a living is a real problem.”