Yesterday, I had the opportunity to sit down with the Treasurer for the State of New Jersey, David Rousseau, the Director for the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations and Union officials that I represent. The purposes of the meeting was to listen to the Treasurer’s doom and gloom speech regarding the State budget, how broke the state is, and how difficult it is to balance the State budget as mandated by the New Jersey State Constitution. With that being said, it can not be denied that we are in an extraordinary economic climate that has not been experienced in our life times.
One of the plans to cut the budget that was proposed by Governor Corzine and his staff is to issue mandatory involuntary furloughs to all State Law Enforcement Officers. Of course this idea when presented to union officials was met with disdain and discontent. First, under New Jersey State law, there is no such thing as an "involuntary furlough". Furloughs as defined by the New Jersey Department of Personnel are voluntarily absences initiated by public employees at the request of the government. When the government makes a unilateral decision to absent an employee from work against his or her will, even if it is for a day or two, it is a "layoff". When layoffs are initiated by State, County, or Municipalities, again, these governmental bodies must follow the rules and regulations promulgated by the New Jersey Department of Personnel. Thus, special re-employment lists must be created, and all of the seniority and bumping rights contained in collective bargaining agreements must be followed.
I am writing this entry for two reasons. First, to educate our readers and union officials about the fallacy of "involuntary furloughs"; and second to call all public safety officers throughout the state of New Jersey to action. Laying off public safety officers, whether they be state, county or municipal, in an effort to save a few dollars to balance a budget is a horrific idea. Think about it. When there are less police officers on the streets due to layoffs, are the criminals going to take a vacation? Are the buildings in New Jersey going to stop burning? How about the security of our prisons. Are the convicted murders, rapists and gang members housed in institutions through out the state going to be more cooperative because there are less corrections officers walking the tier?
It is a shame that some politicians do not commit to public safety the same way that all of the professional police officers, firefighters and corrections officers do on a daily basis. Thus, please call you Assembly Members and State Senators. Make them aware that public safety officers through out the state will not stand for the public safety of our loved ones to be diminished because of the fiscal crisis that we are in due to the politically poor planning and lack of foresight. Now is time that all public safety officers must come together in solidarity to protect your employment rights, your health and safety, and the health and safety of those citizens that you protect and serve on a daily basis.
As always–Thank you for all of the protection and piece of mind that you provide on a daily basis.