By Peter Schmidt
A tentative agreement between Rutgers University and its main faculty union curbs the administration’s power to withhold pay increases and also creates a new fund to support the development of graduate and teaching assistants.
The question of when Rutgers can refuse to honor contractually pledged pay raises had been a major sticking point in negotiations between its administration and its nearly 4,700-member faculty union, which is affiliated with both the American Federation of Teachers and the American Association of University Professors. As reported last month by NJ.com, a news website, the administration had resisted changing decades-old language in the faculty contract saying that the university’s payment of negotiated pay increases is contingent upon the state providing it with “adequate funding.” Although university had cited the provision only once to impose a salary freeze, in 2010, union officials argued that the language gave the administration too much power to freeze salaries unnecessarily.
The new tentative contract, announced Thursday, says that university can renege on contractually promised raises only after providing the union with a detailed, documented explanation of why a fiscal emergency exists and then entering negotiations with the union over emergency measures.
Among its other key provisions, the contract — still subject to ratification by union members — calls for the administration to put money into a fund to support the academic progress of teaching assistants and graduate assistants. The university’s contributions into the new fund will grow from $525,000 annually to $825,000 annually over the four-year life of the contract. The activities covered by the funds will include research and travel to conferences.