Thursday, April 28, 2016

There is Still Time to Donate...

Thank you to everyone who has donated to the Mt. Pleasant Animal Shelter during the month of April as well as those who volunteered and visited the shelter. We are just two days away from the end of the drive and if you haven't contributed yet, don't miss your chance to support deserving animals in need.

You can visit AFT Local 1904's giving page to make an online donation and help to feed and provide medical care to our canine and feline friends. Donations will be accepted from now through April 30th.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Negotiations Update

by Bill Sullivan, Vice President for External Affairs

Some favorable news: After our Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with the State and university presidents expired on June 30, 2015, the governor unilaterally froze our members’ increments (steps) in the salary guide. Therefore, those who expected to move up a step in the salary guide have not yet had their salaries adjusted to the next higher step. The governor’s action was supported by two rulings by the New Jersey Public Employment Relations Commission (PERC), which ruled that non-payment of salary increments after the expiration of a contract could not be challenged at arbitration. These two PERC cases originated at the county and local government levels, but applied equally to all municipal, county, and state public employees in New Jersey. 

Recently, a NJ Superior Court judge overturned the two PERC decisions that froze the payment of salary increments after the expiration of a contract. The court’s ruling gives us the opportunity to resurrect this issue. Our union’s attorney has written to the New Jersey Office of Employee Relations (OER) demanding that all salary increments be paid retroactive to the expiration of the contract and advised that a refusal to do so would result in legal action to enforce our claim.  The claim may be in the form of an unfair practice charge at PERC and/or a grievance under Article XXI D of the expired CBA. 

The legal issue at stake is known as the “dynamic status quo”. This precedent held sway for decades and viewed the payment of normal salary increments as a term and condition of employment that could not be unilaterally discontinued upon the expiration of a collective negotiations agreement. The PERC rulings reversed that precedent by substituting the “static status quo” doctrine holding that the obligation to pay normal salary increments does not survive the expiration of a CBA. The Superior Court, however, ruled that PERC exceeded its authority under the NJ Employer Employee Relations Act. The court ruled that only action by the New Jersey State Legislature could affect the payment of normal increments.

Our statewide College Council hopes that the State will comply with the Superior Court decision, but it appears more likely that PERC will file a petition seeking review from the New Jersey Supreme Court. It will then be up to the Supreme Court to either allow the lower court decision to stand or to hear the case. Please be patient. It may take some time before the final decision is handed down.

Some discouraging news: The last time the Union met with the State at the bargaining table was in the fall semester 2015. The next negotiating session is scheduled for May 6. The Union requested that the State submit a financial proposal to us at this meeting. The State responded by saying that it is not prepared to do so. The Union has been asking the State to exchange economic proposals since the summer of 2015, shortly after we exchanged non-economic proposals.

The CBAs of other state employee unions also expired on June 30, 2015. The Communications Workers of America, which represents our secretaries and others on campus; the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, which represents the campus housekeeping and maintenance staff; and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents some workers on campus, have yet to have meaningful negotiations with the State. It appears that the State is not yet serious about bringing a successful conclusion to contract negotiations with the statewide Unions.