As reported by nj.com, Governor Chris Christie began bargaining over health benefits for state employees this week, according to a memo sent out to members of the Communications Workers of America obtained by the Star-Ledger.
Christie has been adamant for months that he would obtain changes to employee health benefits through legislation. The new offer, similar to the one he publicly proposed that would require state employees to pay 30 percent of the cost of the insurance premium, came when his staff sat down to negotiate with the CWA, the largest public employee union, on Thursday, according to the memo. The new offer also would allow the state to change the cost of employee co-pays for the life of the four-year contract.
The CWA has filed a complaint with the Public Employment Relations Commission alleging violations of state employment law when Christie refused to negotiate over health benefits. That complaint is still pending.
“This kind of proposal is regressive and hurts lower paid workers and families,” the memo states. “However, we will continue to bargain health care according to our principles of affordability and maintaining quality care. Now that there is finally a proposal from the state, we will press for real bargaining to take place.”
Christie spokesman Kevin Roberts said they continue to push for legislation to change health benefits. “In keeping with the ongoing collective bargaining process, the Administration presented its proposals on economic issues that are subject to negotiation,” Roberts said in an email. “Gov. Christie’s position is clear on the issue of health benefits reform-bipartisan legislation to accomplish comprehensive changes and achieve savings for taxpayers is the only way real reform of the system will happen. We will continue to work with the Legislature to that effect.”