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DRPA Efforts to Resolve Expired Labor Contracts Thwarted by New Jersey Governor
Last minute veto jeopardizes wage and healthcare security
for nearly 500 working class families across the region
CAMDEN, N.J.- Less than one hour before the close of the 10-day veto window, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie frustrated the DRPA and PATCO Board efforts to resolve longstanding expired contract issues with three labor unions. In so doing, the Governor has denied worker’s negotiated contracts, benefits and wage security that many other New Jersey unions have been able to grant to their workers.
Among the settlement terms vetoed were two years of no wage increases with only a 1.9 percent annual raise until 2017. These three unions represent critical transportation workers who are essential to operating, maintaining, repairing and protecting the bridges, roadways and trains. Many of these employees have been working without wage adjustments for more than five years.
Governor Christie vetoed DRPA’s efforts to reduce its future healthcare exposure by 35 percent. The vetoed proposal would have also allowed for a reduction of current healthcare costs by as much as $600,000 per year.
“Settling the expired union contracts has been my number one priority since becoming Chairman of the Board in 2015. I am extremely disappointed in Governor Christie’s decision to veto the labor contracts that we have worked so hard to negotiate. Throughout this process, the DRPA has worked diligently and in good faith with our labor partners and the Pennsylvania and New Jersey Administrations. It has been an arduous process, one based upon a true sense of compromise,” said DRPA Chairman Ryan N. Boyer.
John T. Hanson, CEO of the DRPA stated that “our proposal is fair and equitable in the context of other contractual settlements within the State of New Jersey and the region. DRPA is in excellent financial position, thanks in large measure to the work of these employees. Our failure to compensate them fairly and equitably, will likely create problems for the entire region.”
Governor Christie vetoed every one of the DRPA’s proposed labor settlements. In contrast, he approved 2.5 percent wage increases for New Jersey Transit (NJT) for all contract years retroactive to 2011, plus longer terms to 2019. The cost of this NJT wage increase is a substantial $209 million. While granting this increase in pay, NJT has also raised fares by 9 percent to cover a $56 million budget gap. By comparison, the approximate total cost increase over six years to the DRPA and PATCO is $4.3 million.
“DRPA does not have a budget gap. We have not increased our tolls or fares since 2011, nor would we consider doing so until 2020. We have also lowered tolls for frequent bridge users and our 50 percent discount continues to benefit our seniors,” says Jeffrey L. Nash, Vice Chair of DRPA.
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf stated, “The hard work of DRPA and PATCO employees is truly a testament of the overall success of the organizations. They are an example of budgetary stewardship, given their positive cash position, recent credit rating increase and numerous awards for transportation projects that come in on time and under budget. I trust that DRPA and PATCO will take the necessary actions to fairly compensate their hardworking employees.”
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