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Police Union Rejects Contract

Township, police will go into arbitration after union unanimously rejects a final contract offer

West Orange police will turn an ongoing dispute over a four-year job contract to an arbitrator after nearly 18 months of failed negotiations, according to union officials.

"It is not being done fair and equitably across the board," said West Orange Police Officer and Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Christopher Jacksic. 

The patrolmen's benevolent association, Local 25, moved towards arbitration once they overwhelmingly rejected a second four-year contract June 8 with a 63-0 vote. The contract, proposed by the township, required that officers pay 25 percent of their medical benefits, included wage increases in 2012 and 2013 and rehired the eight officers that were laid off in March.

Union officials maintain the contract is not reasonable for its employees.  

Union members also turned down the township's that required a 7.5 percent concession to salary for benefits and 2 percent salary increases for 2012 and 2013. 

The vote resulted in eight layoffs and 16 demotion to offset the township's roughly $3.4 million deficit.

West Orange Mayor Robert Parisi called the second vote "unfortunate" and the "final attempt" at negotiations. 

"We have to find a balance between the employees' needs and the township's needs and it's not only just a financial balance, it's a moral balance," said Parisi. "We all feel a moral obligation that all of our employees and their families are properly covered and properly cared for but that has to be balanced with the economic reality of the township." 

These negotiations come against the backdrop of a state-wide health benefits reform plan that is pending in the state legislature. Introduced by Senate president Steve Sweeney, the reform plan (S-2718) would require public employees to pay a percentage of their health care premium on a sliding scale based on salary. Payments would be made gradually over the course of four or seven years. 

While the reform plan would require public employees to pay up to 30 percent of their benefits, payments would be phased out and gradually build up with salary increases. The contract proposed by the township, however, is not "salary specific," said Jacksic. "A new officer with a family pays equal as an officer that's been here for 20 years." 

He said that due to current pending legislation, "the membership felt that they would await the findings of the state and follow what process the state was going through."

The union has filed for arbitration, scheduled to take place July 15. Because of the nature of their jobs, police and fire employees are prohibited from striking and need to hire an arbitrator by law to settle the matter.

"This is the business of government," said Parisi. "It's not like we don't have tremendous respect for what they do ... we have to do what's in the best interest of the town to keep the town economically viable."

Since the layoffs, two officers have been rehired due to unexpected retirements and one more will be rehired in July. Three officers have been offered employment in Milburn. Two officers remain unemployed, according to township officials. 

MP June 19, 2011 at 02:44 AM
You never posted any financial analysis to back up your claim. Why don't you say how much the cops are making with over time, how much pension they will get starting from what age, how much they pay for heath care, how much they contribute towards pension, how pension is calcualted (inflated last years's income!), how much money the politicians are making through doub dipping, etc. You cannot stop spending money on town's festivals and other things and pay everything to the cops. Town needs this kind of things to make it a coherent town. How many WO cops live in WO? You post all the information you have to back up your claims.
KB June 20, 2011 at 05:43 PM
@MP: The police pay 8.5% of their salary weekly into the pension, plus state and fed'l taxes etc. We don't contribute to social security. If current legislation passes we will pay 10% of our salary into the pension. Currently 1.5% of our salary is deducted for health benefits. Pensions are based on salary after 25 years of service. It appears that based on the above approx 20% of our salaries, give or take %, are deducted immediately before we take home a dime. That's pension, state/fed"l taxes, health deductions. You comment that you see officers on road jobs, kmart, shoprite etc., well those are officers working part time jobs to supplement their primary jobs just like most citizens. Most officers/firemen I know must work 2 jobs to support their families, but yet we're not the ones complaining, it's guys like you. Now please post your occupation, deductions, pension/401K etc. so we can continue this discussion.
Tom G. June 21, 2011 at 12:07 PM
Actually, paying 10% into a pension plan really isn't bad at all. That's about what I contribute to my 401k plan and 401k's have big risk. I would pay 10% into a pension any day since at least you are guaranteed the money is there when you retire. 401k plans are a joke...they give a false sense of savings (as many people who have tried to retire the last few years have found out). 401k's are completely dependent on the market, where at least a pension is guaranteed and backed by the PBGC. Plus with 401k you end up paying taxes when you withdraw the money anyway. Over the last 10 years I probably could have earned more in a low-interest savings account than in a 401k plan.
KB June 21, 2011 at 03:46 PM
@Mac: 1) But you don't have greedy politicians raiding your 401k plan (like our pension), spending the money on pet projects and then blame the workers when they can't replenish the pension fund. The workers become the scapegoats and all the taxpayers get hit with the bill. I still don't see tort reform, term limits and increased insurance competition to help drive down the costs of health care for ALL citizens. Greedy politicians are in bed with the insurance companies and lawyers representing same. In many cases greedy politicians run their own law firms and or insurance practices while holding elected offices. 2) Please post your occupation, deductions, 401k/pension contributions, salary etc like I have to further this discussion. I hear a lot of complaining on the patch from guys like you and MP but I don't see the numbers etc from you guys.
robert smith August 04, 2011 at 02:49 AM
Its so funny to me that these ppl sleep safley in their beds at night because brave men and woman are willing to put their lives on the line for them and they think that all cops are entitled and sit at shop rite all day...i work in one of the worst cities in nj and trust me im not sitting at shop rite collecting my measly south jersey salary thats not even close to 100k get educated and get a clue or stfu

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