Unions Win Increment Decision, Governor Christie Likely to Appeal

In a strongly-worded rebuke of Governor Christie’s pro-management-packed Public Employee Relations Commission, an appeals court found on March 9 that PERC overstepped its authority when it reversed over 30 years of labor relations policy in two decisions that permitted management to stop paying automatic increments after the expiration of a contract.

In a decision involving Atlantic County, PERC disavowed what is called the “dynamic status quo” doctrine and ruled that the County’s decision not to pay salary/step increments was not an unfair practice.  In a related decision involving Bridgewater Township, PERC ruled that payment of salary/step increments after contract expiration is no longer subject to negotiations and that an agreement to pay those increments is not enforceable in arbitration.  

The appellate court reversed PERC on both counts.  The court ruled that PERC’s two decisions were outside its legislative mandate.  The court noted that the 2% tax levy cap and the 2% interest arbitration award cap did not extend to increments and that PERC did not have the authority to do what the Legislature chose not to do.  Finally, the court stated that PERC undermined the parties’ legitimate expectations based on their negotiations and their contracts.

If the Supreme Court does not agree to review an appeal of this decision, or if the Court upholds the 3 to 0 published decision by the Appellate Court, all increments will have to be paid retroactively.

Either Atlantic County, Bridgewater or PERC may file a petition asking the New Jersey Supreme Court to review the cases.  A petition must be filed within 20 days.  

We will keep you posted as to the progress of this case, and you will hear more details about it on the next Town Hall Call. 

The court decision can be found on the Judiciary’s website:  http://www.judiciary.state.nj.us/opinions/a2477-13a0107-14.pdf