John L. Shahdanian II Reverses Public Employee Relations Commission Decision and Obtains Successful Arbitration Result for the Borough of Bergenfield

John L. Shahdanian II, partner in the Governmental Law Practice Group at McCusker, Anselmi, Rosen & Carvelli , recently secured two favorable decisions for the Borough of Bergenfield against Police Benevolent Association, Local 309, on important labor issues relating to negotiation agreements and healthcare benefit contributions. The firm’s Governmental Law Practice Group provides New Jersey municipal and county governmental entities with general legal counsel on all aspects of the increasing number of legal issues facing local public entities.

PBA Local 309 proposed a 3% wage increase to be applied across the board to the salary schedule for their members while the Borough offered, among other things, that employees contribute to healthcare at levels consistent with P.L. 2011, c.78 (instead of the current 15% healthcare premium contribution) and a 2% average annual salary increase for those who reach top step.

After hearing arguments, and comparing the demographics and contracts of Bergenfield to other neighboring municipalities, the arbitrator found that the “salary proposal submitted by the PBA, in its final offer, is a little too high and is not supported by the evidence submitted into the record nor when applying the statutory criteria. The salary proposal submitted by the Borough, in its final offer, on the other hand, is more appropriate and more in line with the statutory criteria.” The arbitrator’s decision as it relates to salary for officers is in the best interest of Bergenfield’s residents, as it “will permit the Borough to maintain its fiscal responsibility to their taxpayers while providing the PBA members with a fair and reasonable wage/salary increase.”

Additionally, it has been decided that employees shall pay the percentage of the total cost of their healthcare benefits as set by the Tier 4 schedule of Chapter 78, but not to exceed more than 25% of the total cost of healthcare benefits, essentially saving the Borough $170,877.12 annually. The arbitrator also increased the step guide for new hires from 6 steps to 10 steps.

More recently, the Borough appealed a decision of the Public Employment Relations Commission (“PERC”) ordering it to sign a collective negotiations agreement. The two parties arbitrated over terms of a new collective negotiations agreement, and subsequently the PBA drafted a contract memorializing the interest arbitration award. However, the Borough argued the proposed contract did not accurately reflect the decided award, as the PBA miscalculated figures after including “past practice” language.

On appeal, it was found that the included language in the PBA’s proposed salary term “does not accurately reflect [the arbitrator’s] decision on the parties’ salary impasse.” PERC’s decision was reversed in favor of the Borough, preventing them from executing a contract that would have cost over $250,000 more than they were required to pay.

Skip to content