TRENTON — A state board overseeing teachers' retirement funds today declined to investigate what it could do to stop Gov. Chris Christie from taking money meant for pensions to deal with a budget crisis.

The board of the Teachers' Pensions and Annuity Fund — the largest of all the pension funds in New Jersey, with nearly 200,000 active and retired teachers — deadlocked 2-2 on a proposal to hire outside counsel to review Christie's plan and suggest potential legal action.



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Atlantic FOP Wins Scheduling Arbitration more




• New Jersey: The most stressed out state in the Northeast has the highest population density in the land, some of the longest commutes, and its residents spend the highest proportion of their income on housing.


(Newser)  – Florida is the most stressed-out state in the lower 48 and that has nothing to do with pythons, shark attacks, or drug-dealing mayors, according to a new study. Real-estate blog Movoto used factors including commuting times, housing prices, and lack of health insurance to arrive at its findings. It ranked the Sunshine State first because of high unemployment, at 11.3%, and the fact that 25.8% of its population doesn't have health insurance.

The rest of the top five:
• Georgia: This state had the combination of the longest working hours of any state in the top 10, and one of the highest rates of people with no working hours at all.
• New Jersey: The most stressed out state in the Northeast has the highest population density in the land, some of the longest commutes, and its residents spend the highest proportion of their income on housing.
• California: The most stressed state in the West has housing costs second only to New Jersey
• Nevada: This state's unemployment rate is 11.8%, the second-highest in the country behind Michigan.
• Illinois, New York, Maryland, North Carolina, and Arizona also made the top 10, with Maryland having the nation's longest average commute time.

The heartland, meanwhile, seems to be the least stressed part of America. North Dakota came in at the bottom of the list, just below Iowa, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Nebraska. "It looks like both the coasts of America are pretty stressful, while the Midwest is a little more relaxed," notes Isha Aran at Jezebel. "Maybe people just need to get away from people a bit more often." (Other studies have found North Dakota to be the happiest state in America—but also the deadliest for workers.)



NJEA opposed to hybrid pension system.......

  "Money that's being taken out of employees' paychecks for the state income tax is actually being sent through the state and back to the corporations,” said Myron Plotkin, the New Jersey Education Association field rep for Atlantic County.


  • FOP State NJ Labor Law Update MORE




PERC refuses to follow precedent to pay automatic salary increments


In County of Atlantic and , FOP Lodge 34 and PBA Local 77, issued on Dec.19,

2013, PERC reversed more than 30 years of precedent when it concluded that the County was not required to pay automatic increments to officers upon the expiration of the parties’ collective negotiation agreements. PERC’s decision is a radical departure from settled law and is a significant limitation in the scope of bargaining. It may affect all public employees, not just law enforcement officers.

In this decision, PERC reviewed and reversed its hearing examiner’s decision in which the hearing examiner followed well-settled precedent and concluded that the County was required to pay automatic increments upon the expiration of the collective negotiation agreements. We previously reported on this decision in the April 2013 issue of NJ COPS. At the end of the article, we noted that the hearing examiner’s decision was good news but it was only a recommended decision. We concluded by stating that "We will be watching closely to see if PERC ignores longstanding precedent or follows it." Unfortunately, we now know the answer.

By way of background, this case involved three law enforcement units in Atlantic County, two PBA units and a unit represented by the FOP. All collective negotiations agreements expired on Dec.

31, 2010. There was a past practice by which the County paid increments on Jan. 1 following the expiration of an agreement. However, on Jan. 1, 2011, the County refused to pay what had previously been automatic increments. The two PBA locals and the FOP lodge filed applications for injunctive relief. The applications for injunctive relief were originally heard by PERC’s Deputy

Director of Unfair Practices who had more than 25 years of experience with the agency. However after he heard the argu- ment, PERC’s then new Chair took the case from the Deputy Director and denied injunctive relief in March 2011.

The case was then processed in the normal course and a complaint and notice of hearing were finally issued in April

2012. The hearing examiner issued his decision in March 2013 and concluded that the County violated its duty to negotiate in good faith by unilaterally refusing to pay what had been automatic increments on Jan. 1, 2011. The hearing examiner found that the longstanding past practice and contract language required the County to pay the increments on the officers’ anniversary dates after the contracts expired. He rejected the County’s arguments that P.L. 2010, c. 105, which imposed the 2- percent hard cap on arbitration awards, and P.L. 2010, c. 44, which reduced the tax levy cap from 4 percent to 2 percent, pro- vided the basis for the County to refuse to pay the increments. He also noted that the county never claimed an inability to pay the increments.

The County filed exceptions to the hearing examiner’s report. In reversing the hearing examiner’s recommended decision and its own long-standing precedent, PERC relied upon what it claimed was a change in the labor relations climate based in significant part upon the tax levy cap law and Chapter 105. PERC also rejected the hearing examiner’s conclusion that the parties had expressly agreed to continue the automatic payment of step increases after expiration of the contract. In refus- ing to follow precedent and instead dismissing the PBA and FOP’s unfair practice charges, PERC has significantly narrowed the scope of bargaining in much the same way that the Governor and Legislature did when Chapter 105 was enacted.

The change caused by this decision cannot be overstated. From 1978 up to its decision in the Atlantic County case, PERC had consistently issued injunctive relief and required employers to maintain the status quo by paying automatic salary increments upon the expiration of collective negotiations agreements. PERC’s decisions were based on a 1978 decision of the New Jersey Supreme Court in a case arising under the education laws in Galloway Township. In that case, the Supreme Court concluded that the public employer, a board of education, was required to pay automatic salary increments upon the expiration of the collective negotiations agreement. In its Atlantic County decision, PERC seeks to justify its refusal to fol- low this precedent by claiming that the practice serves as a "disincentive to the prime settlement of labor disputes and disserves rather than promotes the prompt resolution of labor disputes." It completely ignored the impact on collective bar- gaining, and provides another tool for employers to hold over PBAs and employees in negotiations. This decision may also have an impact on other benefits, such as longevity, which may increase after an agreement has expired.

As a result of this decision, it is unlikely that PBAs will be able to rely upon a past practice by which employers paid salary increments once the collective negotiations agreement expired and before a new one is negotiated. However, PBA locals which have negotiated specific language requiring an employer to pay salary increments upon the expiration of an agreement may not be affected by PERC’s decision. PERC pointed out that there was not "one word" in any of the collective negotiations agreements referencing an obligation to pay salary increments beyond the expiration date. PBA locals should examine their agreements to determine whether there is any language about the payment of salary increments after the agreement expires.

PERC’s decision has been appealed to the courts. The State PBA, along with other unions, will participate in the appeal as amici curiae. Any appeal of PERC’s decision faces difficult obstacles which must be overcome because the courts will gen- erally defer to a final agency decision. PBA Locals with questions about the impact of this decision should consult with the State PBA or with their local PBA counsel. We will keep the State PBA advised of developments in the appeal.


The Current State of the Interest Arbitration Process: A Fractured System


In accordance with a report issued by NJ.Com, more than 40 towns and counties filed petitions to compel compulsory interest arbitration in anticipation of the expiration of what is commonly referred to as the "2% cap" law. Today, April 1, 2014, a state law in effect since 2011 that caps interest arbitration awards at 2 percent, sunsets and renewal of the same appears to be unlikely. The State Senate and Assembly on Thursday sent Gov. Chris Christie a bill that would extend the cap until the end of 2017. The bill had slight modifications to the current law that is set to expire. However, Christie conditionally vetoed the bill, stating that it did not impose the necessary restraints on law enforcement unions to collectively bargain for wages and conditions of employment. The State Senate concurred with the Governor's recommendations, however, the Assembly has yet to address the veto. Based on the foregoing, various municipalities and counties filed for interest arbitration due to the fact that they believe it is unclear if the cap will apply to contracts that are under negotiation but have not yet gone into arbitration. Under the current law, the New Jersey Public Employment Relations Commission is mandated to appoint an Arbitrator the following business day that a petition to compel arbitration is received. However, at this point in time, there are approximately five (5) arbitrators that sit on the special panel that has been appointed to hear these highly complex legal and economic cases. Thus, it appears evident that it will be an impossibility for arbitrator appointments to be made in accordance with the mandate. As we have all known for the past three years, the system to address an impasse regarding public safety contracts is fractured and in need of an overhaul. However, now, State Government must recognize the problems with the current law as they most likely will not be able to comply with the very same rules and regulations that they have put into place.