March 20, 2017
By Steven Wishnia and Neal Tepel
Trenton, NJ – The New Jersey Supreme Court heard oral arguments Mar. 13 on whether public employees should get “step” pay increases after their contract’s expired.
The case began when Atlantic County refused to pay the increases, given when a worker has been employed for a certain number of years, to police officers whose contract had expired while talks on a new agreement were still in progress. Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 34 and Policemen’s Benevolent Association Local 77 charged the county with unfair labor practices, but the state Public Employment Relations Commission ruled in 2012 that the county did not have to give the officers the raises, reversing a principle accepted since the 1970s. In 2013, Bridgewater Township followed suit in refusing to give its police officers step increases after their contract expired, and the next year, the PERC ruled in the town’s favor. But last March, a state appeals court reversed that decision, saying there was “no basis to conclude” that governments could ignore the standard union-contract clause that provisions continue in effect while a new agreement is being negotiated, and that the commission had acted “outside the scope of its legislative mandate.” Atlantic County, Bridgewater and the PERC are challenging that decision. Read more