Tentative Pact for New Jersey State Workers

Bargaining against the backdrop of a state budget crisis, CWA New Jersey state workers reached a tentative settlement that emphasizes job protection while also boosting pay by 11.5 percent over four years and upgrading hundreds of job titles.

The proposed contract, covering 35,000 state employees, includes no pay hikes in 2003 but provides four across-the-board raises in subsequent years that range from 2 percent to 2.9 percent. It also includes a long-sought 10th step on the salary scale effective July 1, 2006, for workers with more than nine years on the job.

"This is a fair settlement that protects our members' jobs and improves their standard of living, despite the worst fiscal crisis in the state's history," CWA District 1 Vice President Larry Mancino said. "We've avoided layoffs and negotiated a substantial raise over the life of the agreement. The negotiations were tough, but the administration worked with us to reach an agreement that meets the needs of our members."

Members of CWA Locals 1031, 1032, 1033, 1034, 1037, 1039 and 1040 have until June 27 to vote on the pact, which will take effect July 1 if ratified. The current contract expires June 30.

Among economic improvements is a 25-cent hourly differential for all second- and third-shift work beginning July 1, 2005. Presently an employee has to work nearly 200 swing or night shifts in a calendar year to be eligible for a bonus, which works out to about 18 cents an hour. Workers would also get an increase in their clothing allowance.

The tentative agreement also provides employer-paid health benefits for more than 400 intermittent workers, such as seasonal employees in the departments of Taxation and Revenue, if they work at least 750 hours a year.

Other contract gains include title upgrades for hundreds of bargaining unit members, significant language changes to make it harder for the state to privatize state jobs, and a requirement for independent arbitration in cases of disciplinary action.

Employees' co-payments for health care would increase under the contract, rising from $5 to $10 for office visits and brand name drugs. The cost for generic drugs, now $1, will rise to $3.

Gov. James McGreevey praised CWA's hard work through months of negotiations, stating, "In these difficult economic times, our priority in the negotiations was to protect jobs." McGreevey said CWA members "professionalism and the commitment they display on the job is essential to our ability to provide quality programs and services for New Jersey citizens."