Gov. Chris Christie has taken an aggressive approach to dealing with public workers and their unions since taking office in early 2010. He’s encouraged voters to reject school budgets in communities where teachers weren’t accepting pay freezes, pushed to change civil-service rules, and signed legislation that forced employees to pay more toward to their pensions and health benefits.
Now that Christie has joined the 2016 GOP presidential primary field, his administration is taking another tough stance. It recently told thousands of union members whose contracts expired June 30 that they won’t be receiving annual incremental pay increases while there’s no new deal in place.
In the past, the unions say workers have generally received their annual increases if their performance merited the bump — even without a contract in place.
Christie’s freeze affects state office workers, college professors, corrections officers, and other groups of public workers who haven’t yet reached the top of their pay scales.
Public-worker unions have been responding to the Christie administration’s new position on pay increments — something many view as a pressure tactic — by filing administrative grievances and at least one union, Policemen’s Benevolent Association Local 105, has filed suit in Superior Court.
Lance Lopez, the president of PBA Local 105, said the Christie administration’s freeze affects 3,700 members of his union. The prior agreement with the state said that the rules established under a contract that expired on June 30 would be extended for a year if no new agreement was reached, he said. And the union would have had to have been informed in writing by February 1, 2015 of any change, which didn’t occur, he added.