U. must engage in competitive bidding processes
Academy Bus, the vendor which has provided the New Brunswick/Piscatway campuses with bus service for the last 10 years, will be replaced next year by another outside vendor First Transit of Aberdeen, Scotland, United Kingdom, if University President Richard L. McCormick and others in the University administration are allowed to continue their race to the bottom.
This is an important issue to American Federation of Teachers-Rutgers because thousands of our members — faculty, staff and graduate employees — use the bus service every year. This is an important issue to students and working people in our communities because unionized bus drivers will be replaced by lower-paid drivers with no job security or benefits, no chance to speak out on health and safety concerns or report problems without retaliation. This is an important issue for student fee-payers because a lawsuit charging University executives with rigging the bid to favor the new vendor raises questions of ethics and indicates that there may not be any savings for the University from the new contract. In light of a recent report issued by the New Jersey State Comptroller, we should all question the process by which this bid was awarded. In his report, Comptroller Matthew Boxer cited numerous instances when the University did not follow commonly accepted practices of competitive bidding and questioned how many millions have been wasted through the process by which the University awards these lucrative contracts. We should all wonder whether this lack of competitive bidding is a partial reason for rising tuition and skyrocketing student fees.
Academy Bus itself experienced a significant learning curve when it assumed the contract 10 years ago. Those of us who were here at the time remember that the drivers were inexperienced, buses were scruffy and breakdowns did not always receive a speedy response. Over the years, we have seen significant improvement. The drivers joined a union, increased their earnings and security and were able to obtain the training they needed.
Are we going back down to the bottom of the slope again? When the University can bus its donors to Newark for a fundraiser and fly head football coach Greg Schiano on his recruiting rounds in a helicopter, shouldn't we have bus drivers with a living wage, job security and protection when they report hazards?
AFT-Rutgers joins our student allies and our colleagues in the New Jersey AFL-CIO in calling on the University to restart the bidding process for campus bus service.
Lucye Millerand is president of the Union of Rutgers Administrators-American Federation of Teachers Local 1766. University Professor Adrienne Eaton is president of AAUP-AFT.
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