The City of Jersey City has won an arbitration against Public Employees Local 245 after a three-year legal battle where they sought double time pay for a brief state of emergency in 2018.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“A big win for #JerseyCity today in arbitration dismissing in its entirety Local 245’s State of Emergency grievance filed against the City for extra pay during Covid. It was estimated that a loss in this case would have exposed JC to approx $15 million in additional payroll liability,” Mayor Steven Fulop tweeted last night.
“As a mayor, at this point I have 10 years of negotiating w/6+ unions on so many issues. I pride myself on being FAIR as we fight for the tax payers but we also want a positive work environment with for our employees. It’s one of the toughest parts of my jobs[.]”
In May 2020, the union sued the city, claiming they are owed double time pay for working during a week-long state of emergency declared by Gov. Phil Murphy (D) between March 6th and March 12th, 2018, as HCV first reported.
Murphy issued executive order No. 14 on due to “severe weather events” that occurred on March 2nd and March 7th, 2018, which was lifted a week later.
On March 19th, 2018, Local 245 says they filed a grievance, the same day the city allegedly sent an email indicating that only employees who worked snow detail would receive double time pay.
Their grievance was then subsequently denied on March 26th, 2018, eventually leading to an independent arbitrator, Richard C. Gwin to decide the grievance on September 12th, 2019.
He ruled in the favor of the city, though the union contends in the lawsuit that Gwin “exceeded his authority and decided matters that were outside the scope of the submission.”
The most recent arbitration decision says that the city cannot be expected to burden taxpayers with a $15 million award to the union given the unpredictable nature of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“No other virus reached the proportions of COVID-19, not the avian flu, not Ebola, none, in the lifetimes of those who negotiated the provision of of those expected to work in Jersey City,” New Jersey Public Employment Relations Commission Arbitrator Robert C. Gifford wrote.
“No State of Emergency has ever been declared by a Governor of New Jersey and lasted over three years, with no end contemplated. An unforeseen once in a century viral pandemic is so severe that it cannot be regarded as one of the risk the City foresaw when Article 15.B.11 was negotiated. For this additional reason, the grievance must be denied.”
An arbitrator initially ruled against the union, a decision that was overturned by the appellate court and upheld by the state Supreme Court.
Representatives from Local 245 could not be immediately reached for comment on Friday.