Tuesday, November 24th, 2015
The Morris County Board of Freeholders last night by a 6-0 vote approved a contract settlement with 173 corrections officers at the county jail, with raises averaging about 2 percent annually, just two months after taking control of the jail and assuming responsibility for contract issues. Freeholder John Cesaro was absent.
That follows a similar agreement approved last month with 28 superior officers at the jail.
The settlement with corrections officers also includes the elimination of costly lifetime health benefits for new employees who are hired at the jail after the summer of 2016.
“We have negotiated fair contracts with our employees at the jail that also are reasonable for our taxpayers, and which the county can actually afford,’’ said Freeholder Doug Cabana, the freeholder board’s liaison on law and public safety issues. “The PBA 298 negotiating members were extremely cordial and professional. The discussions we had were meaningful and productive, with each side respectfully hearing the other side’s positions and leading to a good agreement for both sides.’’
“These settlements allow us to work within the 2 percent annual budget cap on spending increases that has been imposed by Governor Christie, while getting jail employees fair raises,’’ added Freeholder Director Kathy DeFillippo. “This shows that the action we took regarding the county jail has brought back economic accountability there, and resulted in a return to smarter and more realistic budget practices.’’
The freeholder board, in making its decision last summer to take control of the county lockup, cited ongoing fiscal differences with the sheriff, including excessive raises negotiated with corrections unions and huge overtime increases at the jail despite a marked reduction in the number of inmates.
They also cited the sheriff’s unwillingness to cooperate with the County Office of Labor Relations, which has historically negotiated all labor contracts for the county, and with a general lack of communications on many issues.
“The raises the county negotiated are substantially lower than the 5.3 percent to 8 percent annual raises – or 16 to 24 percent raises over three years– that had been negotiated with the two units by Sheriff Edward Rochford,’’ said Freeholder John Krickus. “Those contracts were rejected by the Freeholder Board prior to county takeover of the jail and takeover of labor negotiations. As you can see, the new agreement is fair and far more reasonable.’’
The tentative contract agreement with Morris County Policemen’s Benevolent Association Local 298 (PBA 298) was overwhelmingly approved by the rank and file at the jail last week. It provides an average annual wage hikes of 2.16 percent over each of the three years of the contract, and the removal of lifetime retires health care for all new hires.
PBA 298 employees would receive 3 percent raises in 2015 (retroactively) and 2016, and a $500 raise – or less than 1 percent in 2017. That contract will be considered by the freeholders for approval on Monday night.
The county reached a settlement last month with the 28-member Morris County Correctional Facility Superior Officers’ Association – which includes correction sergeants, captains and lieutenants — that provides average 2 percent pay hike in each of three years.
That agreement provides raises of 3 percent in 2015 and 2016, and zero percent in 2017. That unit gave up retiree health insurance during the last round of negotiations with the county.
The freeholders in June rejected four labor agreements that were negotiated by Sheriff Rochford with law enforcement and corrections officers, plus civilian employees, saying the contracts offered raises far in excess of the county’s ability to afford them.
The freeholders contended the sheriff knowingly negotiated contracts that far exceed the 2 percent hard cap the county has on potential pay hikes – based on Gov. Christie’s limits. In that regard, the freeholders in June rejected all four contracts negotiated this year by Sheriff Rochford, including:
The county governing board also cited the sheriff’s unwillingness to cooperate with the County Office of Labor Relations, which has historically negotiated all labor contracts for the county.
PBA 151 and the Civilian Employees remain under the sheriff’s jurisdiction.