As reported in NJ.Com as well as NJSpotlight, the State of New Jersey recently told thousands of union members whose contracts expired June 30, 2015, that they won’t be receiving annual incremental pay increases while there’s no new deal in place. In the past, State employees have received their annual increases if their performance merited the bump — even without a contract in place. Christie’s freeze affects state office workers, college professors, corrections officers, and other groups of public workers who haven’t yet reached the top of their pay scales.
Crivelli & Barbati, L.L.C., representing approximately seven thousand (7,000) state law enforcement officers and supervisors has filed suit in Superior Court of New Jersey. The Plaintiffs in the case are the New Jersey Law Enforcement Supervisors Association (NJLESA) and the Policemen’s Benevolent Association, Local #105 (PBA #105).
The Christie administration’s position on step pay comes at a time when the amount of money public employees contribute to their healthcare coverage is starting to become a hot issue. That’s because of a four-year sunset provision on healthcare contributions that was a part of the 2011 law that forced them to pay more toward both pensions and health benefits has expired. For now, the status quo remains in effect, but because of the sunset provision, healthcare contributions will be back up for negotiation as contracts come up for renewal.
By taking the stance that workers are no longer entitled to step increases, the Christie administration appears to be adopting a position that the state Public Employment Relations Commission took last year in a case in Atlantic County, in which the County was in a labor dispute with Sheriff’s Department Officers over step increments. The commission upheld the county’s position that it did not have to follow the practice of adhering to providing step increments when a contract has expired. However in this instance, State Employees have a vastly different compensation plan than local and county employees and it is for this reason that the Unions believe that the State broke the law when it made the decision to freeze its members pay.
The case was filed in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Mercer County, and will be argued on the date of August 31, 2015 in front of Judge Mary C. Jacobson, the same Judge that initially ruled that the State of New Jersey had to fully fund its pension obligation in accordance with Chapter 78 of New Jersey State Law. That decision was subsequently overturned by the New Jersey Supreme Court. As this matter develops further we will keep our readers informed.