NYU, Bobst workers clash over job changes

A judge says that NYU must bargain with the union workers at Bobst regarding the school’s decision to change job duties and descriptions.

A National Labor Relations Board judge declared that NYU must bargain with workers at Bobst Library over the impact of the university’s decision to change their job descriptions on Tuesday.

Nearly 30 employees within Bobst’s six departments were given the same job title, despite the varying qualifications and duties of the workers’ original jobs. The university also assigned workers to additional departments other than the one they were initially assigned to.

The reassignments have required employees to learn entirely new practices, such as customer service and computer skills, along with their original position requirements.

Workers have become increasingly concerned that these changes could affect job security and schedule overload. Bobst employees also fear they may not be compensated fairly in regard to these new changes.

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The Union of Clerical, Administrative and Technical Staff Local 3882 initially filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board against NYU on January 15, 2014. After the university repeatedly refused to negotiate with the union, an administrative law judge of the National Labor Relations Board affirmed the charges and issued a decision and order on April 21.

The order stated that NYU must cease and desist from refusing to bargain with the union and rescind all adverse consequences to employees as a result of its decision. Even with this ruling in place, the university has not commented in reply to the union’s new bargain proposal sent on April 23.

Stephen Rechner, president of UCATS Local 3882, said he is awaiting the future bargain now that the NLRB has issued an official decision.

“We are very pleased with the NLRB Administrative Law Judge’s decision and hope that NYU will sit down with us to negotiate in good faith over the effects of these changes,” Rechner said.

However, NYU spokesperson John Beckman said NYU is in disagreement with the ruling because it runs counter to the contract that had been previously negotiated with the union.

“The action NYU took, changing job descriptions for certain clerical positions, is explicitly granted by the written agreement the University has with the union,” Beckman said. “Despite the clear language that the changing of a job description isn’t subject either to bargaining or grievance, the University in fact took the extra step of reaching out to the union beforehand to advise them of the matter.”

CAS freshman Madison Noelle said she hoped the controversy will be able to be settled like the bargain between NYU and the Graduate Student Organizing Committee that took place last month.

“I hope NYU will negotiate with the union after considering the National Labor Relations Board’s decision and come up with a plan that will serve both parties,”  Noelle said.

Linda Wambaugh, organizer of UCATS Local 3882, said she was surprised by NYU taking actions that appear to regard workers as interchangeable parts who can be moved from one job title to another.

“NYU has already spent tens of thousands of dollars, with their own in-house attorney and using an outside corporate law firm, to fight having to sit down at the bargaining table with us to discuss their employees’ concerns over these changes,” Wambaugh said. “It would have been far less time, money and upset if they would have done the right thing and sat down with the employees’ legal bargaining representative and reached a reasonable settlement.”

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, April 28 print edition. Email Lexi Faunce at [email protected]

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