As reported in NJ.COM on September 2, 2013, Police and Firefighters across New Jersey are walking away from the negotiations table with much less money.

Since January of 2011 — following a wave of reforms that capped municipal spending and arbitration awards — Police and Firefighter Unions have signed at least 160 new contracts, according to the New Jersey Public Employment Relations Commission.

The average annual wage increase for those contracts was around 1.86 percent, the lowest bump in at least two decades, PERC records show. The drop is happening in all contracts, whether negotiated or awarded by an arbitrator, and suggests a seismic shift in police and fire negotiations.

After reviewing the figures a Christie spokesman stated “We all know that the key and reasonable complaints of many in New Jersey is property taxes, and one of the key drivers was arbitration awards that were in the 3 and 4 percent range,” “Reasonable salaries are important to police and fire personnel, but the indisputable result was runaway increases that were not sustainable, particularly when we entered a period of recession.”

In 2010, Christie and Democratic lawmakers who control the Legislature enacted a 2 percent cap on local tax growth. But they said the levy cap would be impossible to manage if arbitrators awarded new contracts to police and fire unions — the biggest expense in many towns — that included salary increases above 2 percent.

So, Christie and lawmakers took the dramatic step of capping arbitration awards at 2 percent, too, the only state in the nation to enact such a restriction. They also dramatically sped up the arbitration process and required arbitrators to consider the full compensation package, such as longevity pay and step increases — not just salaries — as counting toward the cap.

The arbitration caps are set to expire in April unless the Legislature extends them, setting up one of the first legislative battles of the year. A task force was created to evaluate the caps, and its most comprehensive report is expected to be issued next month.

Christie wants to extend them, but his opponent, state Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex), who supported the 2010 reform, is taking a wait-and-see approach.“Sen. Buono believes that the only responsible way to address this issue is to review the findings of the interest arbitration task force, evaluate revenues and sit down with stakeholders,” Buono spokesman David Turner said. “Then, as governor, she will weigh in after analyzing their final report.”

Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon (R-Monmouth), one of the most vocal supporters of the cap, said any lawmaker who doesn’t support its extension “needs to go back to remedial math.” “You can’t have a levy cap without an arbitration award cap. It’s completely contradictory,” O’Scanlon said. “You can’t say we are going to cap the amount you can raise to pay your bills and then let an arbitrator hand out higher awards on your biggest budget line item.”

O’Scanlon also said the real power of the reform law is that it requires arbitrators to consider the full compensation package. He said historical records of salary increases are misleading because they fail to take into account other perks like longevity pay and step increases.

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Photo of Frank M. Crivelli Frank M. Crivelli

Frank M. Crivelli’s practice revolves around the representation of over eighty-five (85) labor unions in various capacities, the majority of which bargain for law enforcement entities. He is proud to be called on a daily basis to provide counsel to over 12,000 state…

Frank M. Crivelli’s practice revolves around the representation of over eighty-five (85) labor unions in various capacities, the majority of which bargain for law enforcement entities. He is proud to be called on a daily basis to provide counsel to over 12,000 state, county and local law enforcement officers, firefighters and EMS workers.

Mr. Crivelli specializes his individual practice in collective negotiations.  Over the past twenty (20) years, Mr. Crivelli has negotiated well over one hundred (100) collective bargaining agreements for various state, county, municipal and private organizations and has resolved over thirty-five (35) labor agreements that have reached impasse through compulsory interest arbitration.  Mr. Crivelli routinely litigates matters in front of the New Jersey State Public Employment Relations Commission, the New Jersey Office of Administrative Law, third party neutrals for mediation, grievance and interest arbitration, the Superior Court of New Jersey and the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey.

Mr. Crivelli founded and created the New Jersey Public Safety Officers Law Blog ( approximately fifteen (15) years ago where he and members of his firm routinely publish blog posts regarding legal issues related to the employment of New Jersey Public Safety Officers.  The blog now contains over six hundred (600) articles and is reviewed and relied upon by thousands of public employees.  Mr. Crivelli has also published books and manuals pertaining to New Jersey Public Employee Disability Pension Appeals and the New Jersey Worker’s Compensation System. Currently, he is drafting a publication on how to Prepare and Negotiate a Collective Bargaining Agreement.  He lectures annually at the New Jersey State PBA Collective Bargaining Seminar, the National Association of Police Organization’s Legal Seminar, the New Jersey Public Employment Relations Commission Seminar on Public Employment Labor Law, the United States Marine Corps’ Commander’s Media Training Symposium and to Union Executive Boards and General Membership bodies on various labor related topics.

Prior to entering private practice, Mr. Crivelli joined the United States Marine Corps where he served as a Judge Advocate with the Legal Services Support Section of the First Force Services Support Group in Camp Pendleton, California.  While serving in the Marine Corps, Mr. Crivelli defended and prosecuted hundreds of Special and General Court Martial cases and administrative separation matters.  In addition to his trial duties, Mr. Crivelli was also charged with the responsibility of training various Marine and Naval combat command elements on the interpretation and implementation of the rules of engagement for various military conflicts that were ongoing throughout the world at that time. After leaving active duty, Mr. Crivelli remained in the Marine Corps Reserves where he was promoted to the rank of Major before leaving the service.

For the past fifteen (15) years, Mr. Crivelli has been certified as a Civil Trial Attorney by the Supreme Court for the State of New Jersey, a certification which less than two percent (2%) of the attorneys in New Jersey have achieved.  He is a graduate of Washington College (B.A.), the City University of New York School of Law (J.D.), the United States Naval Justice School, and the Harvard Law School Program on Negotiation.