By Stephen Neukam and Austin Ferguson
UPDATE: The union membership has voted to ratify the agreement, extending the contract until August 31, 2021.
Rider and the university’s faculty union reached a tentative one-year bargaining agreement on June 2, avoiding a potentially prolonged dispute over the contract during uncertain times for the school’s community.
The agreement, still subject to ratification by the union’s membership, partially provided a blueprint for a return to in-person classes in the fall, should the university decide to bring students back.
Classes will be able to meet face-to-face from September 1 to November 24. The rest of the semester would occur remotely.
The negotiations also won a couple of key points for faculty. If the university is allowed to return for in-person classes by September 1, Rider will be unable to layoff any faculty for the academic year — an important clause given Rider’s fragile financial footing.
Additionally, faculty will have the choice of teaching classes either remotely or in-person for the fall and spring semester.
The immediate job security for faculty comes as the university prepares to battle the financial effects of Covid-19, with Rider President Gregory Dell’Omo saying in an email to faculty on May 18 that the economic fallout of the virus has “put extreme pressure on the University’s operations.”
In the same email, Dell’Omo announced that 120 non-union employees would be furloughed for all or part of July and August.
What figured to be a centerpiece of the negotiations, wages and benefits, were unchanged in the agreement. For the seventh year in a row, faculty will not receive a cost-of-living raise.
In a statement to the university community announcing the agreement with the union on June 3, Dell’Omo said, “Both parties worked together expeditiously during a time of exceptional uncertainty posed by the current health pandemic to reach this agreement.”