Governor Christie spent his first two years in office maligning public employees. A number of persons have asked me about what my posture would be regarding the public sector and I have provided them with it. However, I reached the point when posting an article on the subject makes more sense than repeating the same formula over and over again.
I was president of a local union once. If elected governor, I will be the management: It is a drastic role-reversal.
A brief description of the Public Labor Law In New Jersey:
The Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC) is the supreme arbiter in public labor relations matters – more or less in the same fashion as the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is for the private sector. New Jersey Law for the public sector has the provision of No Strike/No Lockout. In contractual disputes, the path is Negotiations – Fact Finding – Mediation – Arbitration. Contrary to what governor Christie and even the press have said, the power of the arbitrators is limited by the framing of the issue. For example, if the dispute is over wages, the arbitrator can not include in his/her award anything other than money. If the arbitrator exceeds his/her scope, any of the parties – or both in a joint petition – can ask PERC to overturn the award.
Fact Finding is a survey that both sides do of prevalent conditions relevant to the dispute in similar organizations or local unions to gather supporting data prior to mediation or arbitration.
Because mediators are often more expensive than arbitrators, in many cases the mediation step is omitted.
In the solution of disciplinary and certain promotional disputes, Civil Service Law may also play a role. Civil Service Law supersedes the arbitrator’s award. I believe it is the same case with teacher’s tenure although I am not familiar with tenure rules.
In January 2014, I would ask the New Jersey Legislature to introduce a law to bring about a popular referendum consolidating all police forces of New Jersey into the Police of New Jersey – a force with central command and data base. Similarly, I would ask for bringing all school districts under State control in the form a New Jersey Board of Education and the New Jersey Department of Education. Local police and schools would not be disturbed. It would be only the command and administration, respectively, that would change.
NOTE: The Police of New Jersey would be under the Department of Law and Safety which may be renamed Department of the Interior and consolidated with the N.J. Department of Corrections.
As the consolidation takes place, the State of New Jersey would automatically adopt all the existing labor contracts. The State would become the employer negotiating with several dozen local unions, all with different wage scales. There is nothing abnormal or new here. It happens all the time and even within a same local union there are two tiers of employees at times.
I would then ask the DOI and DOE setting a dividing line which could be the median or the average – whichever is lower – of existing wages and our negotiating position every time a contract came for renewal would be determined by whether the wage scale open for negotiations is above or below that line. Our policy would be to bring the pay scales closer and Fact Finding would be our best tool in achieving that goal. FF would only help those unions below the line.
Regarding Health Benefits of public workers: I believe the current reform law calls for a return of this issue to the negotiable list of items in 2014. Under my administration, it shall remain a negotiable issue although, as with wages, we will strive to achieve uniformity throughout New Jersey.