Yesterday the New Jersey Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) ruled that the State of New Jersey engaged in unfair labor practices by unilaterally discontinuing the payment of salary guide step increments upon the expiration of the New Jersey Law Enforcement Supervisors Association’s (NJLESA) and the New Jersey Superior Officers’ Associations (NJSOA) contracts that ran from July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2015. (Please see PERC Decision Numbers CO-2016-107 and CO-2016-118 respectively). In rendering their decision PERC adopted the 107 page the Hearing Examiner’s recommended decision in almost its entirety.
PERC stated in the decision that the Commission and the New Jersey Courts have consistently held that changes in negotiable terms and conditions of employment must be addressed through the collective negotiations process because unilateral action is destabilizing to the employment relationship and contrary to the principles of New Jersey Employer Employee Relations Act. However, more importantly, PERC found the Hearing Examiner’s decision to be Consistent with the New Jersey Superior Court Appellate Division’s decision and the New Jersey Supreme Court’s ruling in the case entitled In the Matter of Atlantic County.
PERC stated in its ruling that the “dynamic status quo” had to be maintained in this instance due to the fact that the State of New Jersey had never before frozen or discontinued regular increments under the applicable contract language during the period when a prior contract expired and a successor agreement was negotiated. Thus the status quo included a payment system by which increments were regularly paid based on satisfactory performance, and a past practice of continued adherence to that increment system post contract expiration.
This ruling is incredibly important for New Jersey Public Employee Labor Unions as it provides for clarification of how PERC will treat Governmental increment freezes under its own case law, the dynamic status quo doctrine and the Appellate Division and Supreme Court Decisions in the case entitled In The Matter of Atlantic County. In conclusion, New Jersey’s governing bodies are now on notice that PERC has moved away from the draconian decisions and polices that were instituted by Kellie Hatfield and Chris Christie’s PERC and the Commission is once again the impartial and unbiased administrative agency that it was created to be.