Brothers and Sisters,
Before the election in November, the State had provided a list of bargaining proposals to CWA which would have rolled back several sections of the contract, including PARs, removed workplace dignity from the contract, and other issues. We discussed many of these bogus proposals in previous bargaining updates.
As you know, Governor Murphy took office January 16. Both CWA and the State have acted quickly since that time to get negotiations back on track and to clear roadblocks the Christie administration left in our path. CWA’s top priorities for our state executive branch membership are to settle our long-expired contract and resolve the dispute over stalled increments as quickly as possible.
Here is what we have done so far:
1. Christie’s challenge at PERC to block our increment grievance was removed from PERC’s agenda.
After the NJ Supreme Court ruled that increment grievances were arbitrable, Christie filed a petition with his hand-picked PERC Commission asking to block our grievance and arbitration. Governor Murphy and CWA jointly requested that Christie’s challenge be removed from PERC's January 25 meeting agenda. That request was granted.
2. CWA Is Acting Quickly to Open Contract Negotiations with the New Administration
We are setting up formal bargaining dates and the Governor is replacing Christie’s bargaining team with new representatives. We will bargain strongly but quickly because the issues are well-known after three years working without a contract.
3. Critical Appointments are Moving Forward.
Replacements are progressing for the Public Employment Relations Commission, the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations, and the Civil Service Commission. PERC oversees arbitration and contract disputes. OER oversees state-wide labor relations issues and the CWA-State contract. The CSC oversees testing, seniority rules, classification and desk audits, hours of work, disciplinary appeals, and other important work rules that affect us every day.
4. In addition, the Murphy Administration has notified the Civil Service Commission to cease its effort to change rules on overtime.
The Christie CSC had proposed changes to OT rules that would exclude any benefit leave time from OT calculation and would make it harder for employees to qualify for FMLA.
By illegally stopping the payment of our increments, Governor Christie created a legal and financial mess for our members and for the new Governor. That mess has to be untangled. CWA members are rightfully anxious to receive what we earned and are due under prior contracts, but we are encouraged by the initial steps taken by the new Governor to quickly resolve our outstanding contract negotiations.
CWA NJ State Executive Branch Bargaining Committee
Today, CWA 1036 filed a group grievance on behalf of all affected employees who were entitled to a progression increase (step payment) on January 1, 2017 but did not receive it.
In the grievance, the Union asserts that all employees eligible to receive progression increases should receive the increases that were due under the applicable Contract, effective January 1st of each year. Further, the Union demands that progression increases of 4% be added to base salary to all employees eligible for progression increases as of January 1, 2017. Employees at “maximum 1” who are eligible for advancement to “maximum 2” should also receive that increase.
The basis for this grievance is a letter of agreement signed by the Union and Judiciary in May of 2015, in which the parties agreed that for purposes of progression increases upon expiration of the Contract, the language to be applied is Article 7 of the 2008-2012 Contract, the contract prior to this one. The side letter recognizes that the Judiciary and CWA bargained changes to progression during the 2012-2016 contract, but if there is a dispute over whether progression must be paid after the contract expires, the controlling language is the prior agreement which was in effect from 2008-2012. In other words, under this letter of agreement signed by both parties, CWA argues that progressions of 4% per year are due effective January 1st of each year under our expired contract and while we negotiate a new one.
By failing to pay progressions, the Judiciary has violated our Contract. Additionally, as we have raised previously, the Judiciary’s actions are contrary to over forty years of legal precedent and a unanimous Appellate Court ruling, holding that annual progression increases negotiated in a contract are paid to employees when a contract has expired and a new one is being negotiated. This Appellate Division decision is in effect at this time.
CWA 1036 is committed to fighting for the rights of our members at the bargaining table, in the courts, at the statehouse, and in the streets. We are not backing down from this fight, and we will continue to fight and negotiate for a fair contract for all our members.
We are starting negotiations for the next Burlington County contracts to take effect this year.
Burlington County members are invited to attend a special meeting to talk about our priorities.
Please make every effort to attend.
Congratulations to the Hunterdon Supervisors who ratified a new contract covering 2013 to 2016 after a long round of negotiations. The new agreement provides for raises of 2% or $1,350 in two years of the agreement and another 2% in the final year.
Congratulations to all Rank and File members of Hunterdon County for ratifying a new contract by a margin of 151 to 11. There were 7 provisional ballots.
After two difficult years of bargaining, including mediation and fact finding, members voted today to approve a contract covering 2012 through 2015.
I want to personally commend the entire membership for reaching this point and approving a new contract. We have confronted some of the most difficult times over the last 4 years that anyone can remember, but I have immense respect and gratitude for the strength of the membership to push for the best contract possible. We went through mediation and fact finding to reach a solid agreement.
Congratulations again for reaching this point. Thank you to the bargaining team for their efforts and for all of you who have asked to step up and become more active.