As reported by Observer.com, lawmakers have resurrected a proposal to cap unused sick time payouts for all New Jersey public workers. Last week, the Assembly State and Local Government Committee advanced a bill that would cap sick leave payouts to public workers at $7,500 or whatever the employee has banked so far if they have already earned more than that. Public workers who retire with less than $7,500 in unused sick pay would receive payments over a five-year period to cover the cost of healthcare coverage or medical expenses, according to the bill.
New Jersey currently caps sick leave payouts for all state workers at $15,000. In 2010, former Governor Chris Christie signed a law capping newly-hired local government employees at $15,000, but he conditionally vetoed a separate bill that would have capped all public employees at $15,000, saying there should be no sick leave payouts at all. He then rejected an offer to reduce the cap to $7,500.
Public sector labor unions were outraged at the new bill, arguing it would interfere with their ability to collectively bargain. They said many local governments already have caps on sick leave payouts and noted public workers have seen cutbacks to their benefits and a freeze in yearly cost-of-living adjustments for retirees since 2011. “It’s an attack on collective bargaining, and by extension, it is an attack on the sustainability of the middle class,” said Ginger Gold Schnitzer, director of Government Relations at the New Jersey Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union. “This bill, if enacted, would undermine collectively negotiated agreements.”
Pat Colligan, President of the New Jersey State Policemen’s Benevolent Association, said he was “befuddled” to see a new sick leave payout bill move through a Democrat-controlled Legislature while there is a Democratic governor. “For those of you who are sitting on the dais with a ‘D’ next to your name, there is not one description of ‘Democrat’ in any encyclopedia and any dictionary that doesn’t say it supports labor,” he told lawmakers.
As you can expect, this bill could have an enormous impact upon all New Jersey public employees, most notably New Jersey Public Safety Officers, and the compensation they are ultimately entitled to. Moreover, this seems to be another attempt to circumvent the collective negotiations process through the passage of legislation. As such, please continue to check this blog periodically to ascertain important updates regarding the progression of this bill.