By Madison Pena
The College’s American Federation of Teachers (AFT) union members wrote a letter to President Kathryn Foster, highlighting both financial and professional concerns with dividing furlough dates, as announced in her most recent community-missive on July 2. The union requested Foster to consider consolidating the two mandated five-day furlough periods in the month of July for all faculty members rather than a select few, thus allowing 12-month professional staff members access to CARES funding.
Members said that allowing both blocks to be taken in July, specifically if they were completed by July 25, would grant staff members “access to the CARES funding provided by the federal government, which would be of great benefit to those of us impacted by this decision.”
The College’s AFT union members stated that denying potential government funding for staff members “is counter to the spirit of equity and valuation for which TCNJ stands,” and that the allowance of a second block in July would limit the negative impact on individuals affected by the furlough.
Members also claim that it would be more disruptive to their work to spread out the furlough dates, as the furlough assignments will be decided on an individual basis.
However, the College’s AFT members ratified the memorandum of agreement (MOA) that was negotiated between the State of New Jersey and the AFT union. According to an email sent out by President Foster addressing the members’ concerns, the terms of the agreement include 12 furlough days, “which shall be determined by the College.”
In accordance with the MOA, 12-month employees may be assigned either one or two weeks of furlough in July or two separate weeks of furlough spread throughout the semester.
Taking one of the blocks over winter break would consequently deny all 12-month staff members the CARES funding that would act as a financial cushion for the combined ten-day furlough, the AFT wrote.
Aside from individual protections, AFT members believe that the consolidation of the blocks in the summer would be less of a set-back when it comes to the continuation of on-campus operations and programs, including orientation and Welcome Week.
“Over the summer, we have time to plan and structure,” the union members wrote. “By taking a block during the winter break, we risk disruption to the spring and summer programs that will require our attention.”
In response to the concerns raised by the AFT union at the College, Foster addressed the situation as a misattribution, writing that she made no decision barring 12-month AFT members from taking the blocks of furlough in July.
“Indeed, it is my expectation that some AFT staff will serve either one or two five-day weeks of furlough in July, with designation of furlough dates made for AFT 12-month staff on an individual basis,” Foster wrote in her letter addressed to the AFT members.
She acknowledged members’ concerns regarding CARES funding, and said that despite it not being outlined in the MOA terms, the College administration is aware that it is financially beneficial for staff members to spread furlough days over the course of three weeks in July instead of dividing it into two blocks after July.
According to Foster, individual supervisors or cabinet officers will be reaching out to staff members to discuss the furlough date assignments.
“I know the past few months have been difficult ones,” Foster said. “Many of you have been working diligently throughout this time to ensure the best possible position for the College moving into the fall semester. I am tremendously appreciative of your continued commitment to the community while balancing the impact COVID-19 has had on your families and your daily lives.”