Rider University starts year with possible faculty strike looming
LAWRENCEVILLE — Students are returning to Rider University during the Labor Day weekend amid the threat of a walkout by faculty union members.
The Rider Chapter of the American Association of University Professors said it has authorized a strike if agreement on a "fair and equitable contract" is not reached. A bargaining session was scheduled for Friday.
No date for a strike was announced but it would apparently not be right away.
If no agreement is reached the union said informational pickets would be set up daily starting Sunday as students move into their dorms, as well as for next week during a new student convocation on Tuesday, overseen by Rider President Gregory Dell’Omo.
"The AAUP’s goal is to make small incremental improvements in the contract and to receive the first cost-of-living raise in nearly a decade," the union said in a statement. "The administration’s goal is to fundamentally alter the working conditions of faculty by increasing their workload and slashing their compensation."
Nibbling around the edges
Agreements have been reached on issues such as association privileges, personnel files, grievance and arbitration and appointments. It's bigger financial issues separating the two sides.
According to the union, Rider has asked the union to accept increases in health insurance, the elimination of all benefits for adjunct faculty, lower starting salaries for lecturers, no annual raises and continuation of the reduced contribution to our retirement accounts.
Rider spokeswoman Kristine Brown said that the university faces serious financial challenges that affect its competitiveness and the sustainability of its financial model. Many other non-for-profit colleges and universities face the same problems.
"The University is seeking to achieve savings in a variety of ways through the collective bargaining negotiations with the AAUP," Brown said. "Rider’s faculty compensation rates generally remain ahead of regional peer institutions. Under current conditions, the University does not believe it is feasible for Rider to maintain a cost of instruction higher than our peer institutions."
Brown said Rider has increased the amount of student aid available despite lowering revenues.
Union says Rider threatened to destroy representation
"A renegotiated labor contract with the AAUP will help achieve short-term cost reductions and longer-term structural adjustments that will ultimately position Rider to achieve financial stability, while still providing bargaining unit members competitive terms and conditions of employment," Brown said.
The union says Rider has threatened to remove the faculty’s collective bargaining rights if they don't agree to more work for less pay by petitioning the National Labor Relations Board to bar the AAUP from representing full-time faculty.
Classes have been scheduled to begin at Rider on Wednesday, Sept. 7.