A recent editorial published on NJ.Com calls for Assembly Speaker, Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson County) to renew the two percent (2%) salary cap on interest arbitration awards for law enforcement officers and firefighters that is set to expire on April 1, 2014.

The editorial stated that the 2% cap had to be put in place due to the fact that "the unions used their political clout to rig the rules on negotiations. All they had to do was create a standoff in contract talks, and the dispute would be sent to an arbitrator, who would typically award salary increases in excess of inflation. Over time, that created this monster."
The editorial writer goes on to further state that Governor Christie, "In collaboration with Democratic leaders, changed those rules to give taxpayers a fighting chance. A key provision imposed a 2% cap on salary increases, intended to match the 2% cap on property tax increases.  It has worked exactly as planned. A special task force is reviewing the reform now, but there is no doubt it has resulted in lower salary increases. In the roughly three years after the reform took effect, the average increase in police salaries was just 1.86 percent, the smallest bump in two decades."
The editorial reports that Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester) says renewal is a certainty.  However, mayors are more worried about the Assembly, where Democrats are more closely allied to the unions. 
Our point of view at the New Jersey Public Safety Officers Law Blog is different.  It can not be argued that the 2% cap on salary increases has  created an imbalance at the bargaining table in favor of management.  I make this statement based on first hand experience.  Now, government will not even consider bargaining for salary raises close to 2% as they know that there is no chance that the same could ever be awarded by an interest arbitrator.  Additionally, the 2% cap has been interpreted by PERC in such a way that it has forced Union Leadership to restructure salary guides where it now often takes law enforcement officers fifteen (15) to twenty (20) years to reach max salary.  It has also resulted in Union Leadership being forced to give up longevity payments and other forms of remuneration that they have fought hard to receive over the years.  
Finally, the salary cap coupled with the mandatory payments for healthcare, often equaling close to nine percent (9%) of an officers gross salary, result in law enforcement officers today making approximately ten percent (10%) less in salary because of the inability to bargain for a raise that can keep up with the increased cost of living and the legislatively mandated payments towards healthcare.  
Has it really worked?  The Governor and the legislature told us that the 2% cap would result in a reduction of property taxes.  Have your taxes gone down?  My property taxes haven’t.  Based on the foregoing, the 2% cap has to go, and the sooner the better.
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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 (www.njpublicsafetyofficers.com) 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.