82 police layoffs averted

Union approves plan; council to vote next month

A deal to prevent 82 Jersey City police officers from being laid off next month rests with the City Council after the police union approved the agreement Wednesday.
After 16 hours of voting, members of the Jersey City Police Officers Benevolent Association (POBA) approved an amendment to the union’s current labor contract with the city. The amendment will save the city $3.4 million and block the layoffs of 82 officers that were scheduled to take place on Feb. 15.
The layoffs were proposed in order to diminish a gap in the city’s budget, a budget that topped $500 million last year.


The Jersey City Council may vote on the agreement Feb. 9.

Five hundred and five officers participated in Wednesday’s ratification vote, with 341 voting in favor of the amendment and 164 voting against it. The POBA has a total membership of 690 officers. Voting continued well into the evening, despite Wednesday’s heavy snowstorm.
“We probably would have had more [people voting] if it weren’t for the snow,” said POBA President Jerry DeCicco moments after the ratification was finalized. “But for this kind of weather, to get over 500 people that voted, that’s pretty good.”
In a statement issued later that evening, DeCicco said: “Today’s news puts Jersey City in the rare category of being able to stop…planned police layoffs, a feat that many other cities and towns have been unable to do. I thank Mayor Jerramiah Healy for working with us to find a solution that saves these important jobs and addresses the city’s budget concerns. I would also like to recognize State Sen. Sandra Cunningham for her ongoing support for the men and women of the Jersey City Police Department.”

The deal awaits council action

Under an agreement negotiated earlier this month between Healy and the POBA’s executive board, union members will defer a week of pay until they retire or leave, receive an extra day of pay when they retire, receive two additional compensation days this year, and will keep a $1,300 uniform allowance.
According to Healy spokesperson Jennifer Morrill, when officers get their week of deferred compensation, they’ll receive whatever their pay rate is when they retire, not what they are earning currently. So in that respect, the city will pay more down the road, particularly for a young officer who forgoes a week’s pay now and gets that week when he retires at a higher salary years down the road.
In addition, officers will receive their deferred week of pay even if they do not retire from the department and they leave for another reason.
The Jersey City Council must still approve the agreement, which will likely be placed on the Feb. 9 agenda. The council is expected to approve the contract amendment.
“We are happy the officers voted in favor of this important agreement, that will not only avert the layoff of 82 young officers, but that will also bring some modicum of relief to the taxpayers of Jersey City during this great depression,” Healy said in a statement Thursday. “Many cities around the state and the nation have been forced to layoff much needed personnel, but in Jersey City, we have been working tirelessly with the leaders of the police union to chart a different course for our city and our police department.”
As municipalities have struggled to balance tight budgets while keeping property taxes in check, local governments have begun to look at public safety personnel – usually the last municipal employees asked for givebacks – for ways to save. When Healy began considering the proposal to layoff 82 cops, the POBA staged several protests last fall.

Still may be demotions

Raymond Kraszewski, vice president of the POBA, said Thursday that his union’s ratification vote has no bearing on 12 police supervisors who the city wants to demote. Their union, the Police Superior Officers Association, is still in negotiations with the city regarding the demotions.
As for the fate of seven civilians employed in the Police Department who were also slated to be laid off, Morrill said, “No final decision has been made at this time in regard to that.”
E-mail E. Assata Wright at awright@hudsonreporter.com.

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