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.











County Files for Interest Arbitration With 2 Hour Notice to FOP.......


               Richard Andrien, Assistant County Counsel, notified our Labor Consultant, Myron Plotkin, yesterday that the County would be filing for interest arbitration that day. No advance notice was provided by the County. Normally the representatives set forth a time period in which they allow adequate time for preparation and then file jointly as under the law,  once the paperwork is filed, the 45 day clock begins to tick.  This means that all preparation, mediation attempts, formal hearings, briefs, study by the arbitrator and the issuance of the Award must be concluded within 45 days of the date of filing.


               The County's lack of professional courtesy in establishing timelines to allow for adequate preparation is reprehensible and once again only shows the County's complete disregard for the negotiations process as well as the disrespect it shows every corrections officer.  One must remember it has been the County that has been dragging these negotiations on for 4 years.  The FOP has attempted on numerous occasions during the past year to meet with the County to attempt face to face negotiations and reach a fair and equitable settlement.   The County was always too busy to meet or had no desire to meet. Now all of a sudden, they have filed for arbitration with no notice to the FOP. During the course of the negotiation. We have done everything possible to avoid the expense of another interest arbitration.


               Be assured, we have already begun to prepare for the arbitration and will be fully prepared to present our case before the arbitrator. We DO NOT fall under the "hard 2% cap" as our contract expired in 2010 before the 2% law took effect. That works in our favor as our increases are not confined to 2% above the prior year's salaries and longevity payments.


              Finally,  please do not listen to rumors that may now begin to circulate. If you have a question or need clarification, please see me or Vice President Fredericks or e-mail us.






George Hebert, FOP President

Thursday, March 27, 2014