BOLLWAGE ISSUES CALL FOR ACTION - INTEREST ARBITRATION BILL WOULD REDUCE POLICE, FIRE AND EMS THROUGHOUT STATE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 
Contact: Kelly Vence 
908-820-4124 
Public Information Office 
 
 
BOLLWAGE ISSUES CALL FOR ACTION - INTEREST ARBITRATION BILL WOULD REDUCE POLICE, FIRE AND EMS THROUGHOUT STATE UNIONS SHOULD INSIST ON NO VOTES FOR LEGISLATION AND VETO BY GOVERNOR 
 
UNIONS SHOULD INSIST ON NO VOTES FOR LEGISLATION AND VETO BY GOVERNOR
 
 

 ELIZABETH, NJ— March 26, 2014 - Upon reviewing Assembly Bill 3067 (A-3067) and its companion Senate version known as S-1869, Mayor J. Christian Bollwage is standing with the New Jersey League of Municipalities and voicing his concerns for the proposed legislation in its current state. With exceptions to rules, issues with objectivity and effectiveness, along with the virtual creation of an employee tier system as it relates to arbitration awards, A-3067 and S-1869 do not provide assistance to municipalities and are unhealthy for unions. Encouraging one year contracts, the Bill would damage and limit the capacity of unions representing emergency services; further complicating already challenging mandates. Therefore, the Mayor is urging unions and municipalities to contact their legislators to vote against A-3067 and S-1869.

Scheduled to be considered before both houses on March 27, 2014, amendments would alter current practices and have a negative effect on costs. This would include elevating base salaries in arbitration awards by adding savings realized by the employer for health benefits as well as manpower reductions. The 2% cap greatly immobilized the ability of municipalities to increase municipal emergency services needed to enhance and expand efforts, mitigate incidents and address overall public safety concerns and threats. Budgetary constraints, combined with higher attrition rates associated with rising health care contributions, have also resulted in depleted ranks of first responders at the local level. With the inclusion of this proposed language, the situation will become more critical, as hiring and sustaining additional law enforcement officers, fire and EMS personnel would virtually become a financial impossibility for municipalities.

“This bill creates more confusion than balance and impedes the ability of local government to operate efficiently and effectively,” said Mayor J. Christian Bollwage. “In this form, the legislation proposes irrational and convoluted financing procedures that would do more harm than good if passed. Governor Christie needs to provide municipalities with the resources to protect their fiscal stability and support responsible spending by utilizing his veto power.”

The extension to the 2% cap on Interest Arbitration is misleading; as it does not apply to all arbitration contract situations. The 2% cap can only be applied once by the municipality; therefore contracts that expired and were reissued following the one-time use of the cap, would not necessarily be subject to the cap law. This inability to apply the cap equally and consistently could likely result in arbitration awards that exceed the two percent originally imposed. With this amendment, costs could potentially increase significantly throughout the period of the contract; adversely impacting the ability of local government to maintain expenses and thus control the burden passed on to taxpayers.

Furthermore, the ability for the commission to randomly select arbitrators has come into question, proposing instead to return to the previous practice of an arbitrator being selected from the submission of most equally agreed upon names by each party.

History has shown that “random arbitrators,” who are qualified but not directly tied to either party or personally invested in the issues, have arrived at fair and reasonable decisions. Arguments can also be made that random arbitrators are able to approach situations with more clarity and a fresher outlook, as they are introduced to the elements of each case for the first time; making them, in some cases, more effective by ruling solely on the facts presented and the law.

The City of Elizabeth is the fourth largest municipality in New Jersey, serves as the Union County Seat and is home to nearly 125,000 residents.