Christie seeks Dems’ help in restoring 2 percent cap on union arbitration awards

Gov. Chris Christie is urging Democrats who control the New Jersey Assembly to schedule a vote on a measure that would restore the 2 percent cap on arbitration awards for police and firefighters.

Lawmakers in the Senate have gone along with changes the governor made in a conditional veto of legislation that would have allowed many exemptions to the cap that expired last month.

The cap has been effective by limiting arbitration awards to an average increase of 1.8 percent, Christie said.

“Year-over-year inflation in the past year has been 1.1 percent in New Jersey, so no one is giving anything up here,” he said Monday.

Dominick Marino, the president of the Professional Firefighters Association of New Jersey, said Christie’s veto was a slap in the face to first responders.

“To not be able to fairly negotiate our contract or our compensation puts a damper on our ability to go to work,” Marino said.

The arbitration awards come into play when municipal negotiators and public safety unions cannot agree on contract terms. An arbitrator is appointed to break the impasse and decide on any increase, which both sides must accept.

It’s important for towns that the arbitration cap is restored as soon as possible so they can budget and control property taxes, said Stone Harbor Mayor, Suzanne Walters, who is also president of the New Jersey League of Municipalities.

“We know of two municipalities that their contracts will be up the end of June, and they are in negotiations now, and there may be more, there may be plenty more,” she said.

The Assembly wants to settle the issue through a compromise that would protect taxpayers and provide fairness to public safety employees, said Assembly Speaker Vinnie Prieto, D-Hudson.

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