By Ira W. Mintz, Esq.
Morris County Prosecutor’s Office and Morris County Prosecutor’s PBA Local 327
In I.R. No. 2012-15, a Commission designee denied an application for interim relief that sought to require the employer to pay automatic salary step increases after the expiration of the parties’ contract. Automatic step increases are part of the dynamic status quo and until recently, a Commission designee would order the payment of those increases after the expiration of a collective negotiations agreement. In this case, the parties’ January 1, 2007 through December 31, 2010 contract included this unusually explicit language governing the payment of step increases after contract expiration: “Each successive year following expiration of the contract the step system shall continue in full effect whether or not a successor agreement has been reached.” Prior to the expiration of that agreement, the parties entered into a one-year extension that provided for no salary increases and no step movement for that one year. The extension then provided that notwithstanding the absence of a succeeding contract extension or collective bargaining agreement, “the parties will abide by the terms and conditions of the January 1, 2007 through December 31, 2010 Collective Bargaining Agreement.” Despite this language resurrecting the terms of the 2007-2010 contract, which included language requiring the payment of step increases after the expiration of a contract, the Commission designee found that the language from the contract and the extension as to whether the step system is automatic is “ambiguous and not clear.” The designee then concluded that the PBA had not established a substantial likelihood of success on the merits, one of the conditions necessary to obtain interim relief.