RBHS faculty union is deadlocked in contract negotiations with Rutgers administration
The Rutgers American Association of University Professors and Biomedical and Health Sciences of New Jersey (AAUP-BHSNJ), a union representing approximately 1,400 University faculty at Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences (RBHS), has been in a long-term, deadlocked negotiation for a new contract with administrators.
Receiving allegations from union members of trying to “bust” the union, University administrators have not agreed to a new contract with AAUP-BHSNJ since 2018 when RBHS began its private-public partnership with RWJBarnabas Health (RWJ), a private company and New Jersey’s largest healthcare delivery system.
“It’s been very slow, we’ve put proposals back and forth but there is not a lot of moving forward at this point,” said Catherine Monteleone, a professor at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and president of the AAUP-BHSNJ.
Her union is asking for “what everyone else got,” she said. The union is asking for the same raises and benefits that the rest of Rutgers faculty is provided, Monteleone said.
The AAUP-BHSNJ is also asking for similar salary increases and benefits Rutgers' other unions got in their new contracts. Additionally, the union is asking for changes to the way faculty performance is evaluated by administrators, as they say the current criteria hinders gender equity and freedom of speech.
As of now, the way administrators evaluate the performance of RBHS’ faculty, who act as practicing physicians, scientists or clinicians in the school’s facilities, as well as teachers, is “very ill-defined and subjective,” Monteleone said. These evaluations help determine things such as salary.
“You can use that (performance evaluations) to reduce academic freedom and prevent people from speaking out about specific issues. You know to allow them to decrease salaries based on that would be awful for us. If we do not have academic freedom then we are not an academic institution,” Monteleone said.
The current criteria could also be used to negatively affect female faculty, Monteleone said. Female medical school faculty, overall, make 76 cents to 90 cents on the dollar compared to their male colleagues, the American Association of Medical Colleges found, according to Nothing Less 4 RBHS!
The New Jersey Medical School has not conducted an equity survey since 2013 after several female faculty sued the school for inequity, and the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School has never done a similar survey, according to the website.
Along with average salary increases, members of the union at RBHS are asking for longer maternity leave, as they do not receive the same amount of maternity leave as the rest of Rutgers faculty, Monteleone said.
“Something that should be universal like maternity leave, I just emailed clinicians and basic scientists, do they deserve less maternity leave than the professors of mathematics or linguistics? Really should there be a difference? If it's universal, we’re just having a harder time than the other unions,” Monteleone said.
The union also claims that Rutgers has spent approximately $10 million on consultants during the process while administrators are asking for a three-year deal with the potential to decrease salaries as much as approximately 12%, according to an AAUP-BHSNJ announcement.
“Negotiations are ongoing with the American Association of University Professors—Biomedical and Health Sciences of New Jersey. All issues related to employee contracts will be discussed at the negotiating table with the appropriate bargaining team representatives from the administration and the union,” read a statement provided by a University spokesperson to The Daily Targum when asked about the issues Monteleone raised.
RBHS and RWJ’s partnership integrated the two organization's resources and facilities to offer “high-quality patient care, leading-edge research and world-class health and medical education that will transform and advance healthcare across the state,” according to RWJ’s website.
The partnership places a major emphasis on working with RBHS’ two medical schools, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School (RWJMS) in New Brunswick and the New Jersey Medical School (NJMS) in Newark, as well as the Rutgers University Behavioral Healthcare and the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey in New Brunswick, the state’s only comprehensive cancer center.
The official contract signed between the two, obtained by the Targum through an Open Public Records request, stated that the two will become one party that will combine its resources and research as one entity.
In the agreement, RWJ will provide “Fixed Mission Support” to Rutgers with an initial $100 million, along with a Fixed Mission Support of at least $50 million per year through June 30, 2028, according to the document. The specific amount given to Rutgers will be determined by RWJ’s financial statements, according to the document.
Merged in 2013, RBHS is made up of eight health-related Rutgers institutions including two medical schools, Rutgers School of Dental Medicine, Rutgers School of Nursing and the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy, the Targum reported earlier this month.
Medical schools are not always unionized, and Monteleone said that some administrators have probably come from places that did not have unionized practitioners. Yet her union is one of the oldest in the country, she said.
The AAUP-BHSNJ was created in its current form in 2013, when RBHS began its merger, according to the union’s website. Before that, it was the AAUP-UMDNJ.
The union also includes members of the faculty at the School of Osteopathic Medicine and University Libraries at Rowan University, according to the website. Those members are not affected by contract negotiations with RBHS.
“Faculty want to see a bit of raise, faculty are worried about these new changes and how they will affect you, they are worried about job security,” Monteleone said. “People want a new contract but they don’t want to accept an unfair one.”
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