The New Jersey Appellate Court has issued a decision overturning the Civil Service regulation that caused Paid Leave Benefit (PLB) days to expire. This decision represents yet another defeat of an attempt by Governor Christie to violate our No Layoff Agreement.
To recap, in 2009, after the market crashed and the country slipped into a recession, CWA negotiated a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with Governor Corzine in order to protect our members from layoffs. That Agreement traded the delay of a raise for 18 months plus 10 furlough days in exchange for a multi-year no layoff agreement plus 7.5 Paid Leave Bank Days that could be carried over indefinitely. Thousands of jobs were saved in the process.
There were other provisions, but the main focus when we bargained the MOA was that any agreement must be “Christie-proof”. We knew there was going to be an election and we had to protect members if Christie were to become Governor.
When Christie took office, one of the first things he did was attack our MOA. We had to take him to court to win the day after Thanksgiving off in 2010, a provision of the agreement. When he couldn’t cut our jobs or our pay, he turned to the PLB days.
In typical Christie fashion, his appointed Civil Service Commission issued a “Final Administrative Order” which essentially treated our specially negotiated PLB days the same as vacation days. It said that if we didn’t use them by 12/31/12 they would expire.
We advised members who did not want to use their PLB days to not use them. CWA promised to fight Christie’s action and we again went to the Court.
On September 8, 2014 the court ruled:
“We have considered these arguments in light of the record and applicable legal principles. We reverse that portion of the CSC’s final agency determination that required the use of unused PLB days by the Unions’ employees before December 31, 2012, and hold that, in accordance with the MOAs, there are no carryover restrictions on remaining unused PLB days. The CSC may adopt a regulation that mirrors the language of the provisions of the MOAs if it so chooses. We reject the Unions’ request that PLB days be restored to employees that have already used them.”
What does this mean? We were able to enforce our agreement. If you did not use PLB days and had any taken away, they must be restored to you. If you did use them though, the State does not have to give them back; even if you did use them under duress and threat of losing them.
From the moment Chris Christie was inaugurated he has shown contempt for collective bargaining, an independent Judiciary, and any Commission, law or government entity that will not due his absolute bidding.
As a democratic Union we know that people of good will can have differences – but this Governor’s lack of respect for the law, the equal branches of government, and for his own workforce – is something we have never experienced before.
Fortunately, the Court refused to be bullied.
CWA has reached out to the Office of Employee Relations to discuss how this decision will be implemented. There’s no word yet whether or not Christie will appeal the decision. We’ll keep you posted as we learn more.
You can view the decision here.