Appellate Division Reaffirms Obligation to Negotiate Before Changing Work Hours or Compensation

By Ira W. Mintz, Esq.

Franklin Tp. v. Franklin Tp. PBA Local 154, __ N.J. Super. __ (App. Div. 2012). 

The Appellate Division has affirmed a November 2010 Commission decision that had held that the implementation of shift changes that directly alter work hours and rates of compensation requires negotiations.  The Court reaffirmed that a public employer’s desire to “achieve thrift cannot sustain the adoption of a policy abrogating the Township’s binding contractual obligations.”  The Court characterized the employer’s proposed work schedule modifications as striking at the heart of negotiated contracts because they attempt to alter compensation and work hours without negotiations.  The Court rejected the employer’s reliance on In re Morris County Sheriff’s Office, 418 N.J. Super. 64 (App. Div. 2011), which had described a governmental policy role “to provide efficient and effective services in the police department in the face of burgeoning fiscal crises,” maintaining the essential role of government “to spend public funds wisely.”  The Court stated that Morris involved the elimination of an unnecessary abusive overtime practice, not an action that adversely affected the contractual rate of pay or diminished annual weekly work hours.  The decision will be published.

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