Horse Sense: The Art of the Deal

In the famous words of U2’s Bono, “There’s been a lot of talk… maybe too much talk” and if you visited the Hoboken forum last week, the talk’s been getting quite heated on the question of the Police & Fire union negotiations.  Now we’re not privy to the conversations between the City and the unions and actually have gone out of our way to avoid it when some information has crossed our path.  At the same time, the union negotiations with the police and fire are the obvious very large elephant in the room.  After the Finance Director Dan Trasente presented the 2010 budget, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to see where the biggest costs lie in the town’s outlays.  With the State billions in the red, the hospital in town on a respirator and its $62 million bond guarantee hanging like the black plague over Hoboken, reality should be recognized by all sides now.

So what prompted the drama to come up in the forum?  It seems driven from voices sympathetic to the police and fire employees and oddly, it appears to be getter more shrill than usual and the appearance of almost being orchestrated.  At the same time there’s some glimmer of logic discussed about the ratio of supervisors and most interesting some cacophonous fear of arbitration.  We’ll probably see the results once the negotiations are complete or an arbitrator is requested to make a final call.

In an editorial last spring in the Times of Trenton, an arbitrator ruled in favor of the State of NJ Jersey:

In a decision dated May 5, Labor Arbitrator James Mastriani issued an award in a public employee contract dispute. The case involved the state of New Jersey and P.B.A. Local 105, which represents corrections and parole officers. In this award, Arbitrator Mastriani gave significant weight to the “ability to pay” argument presented by the state of New Jersey. He stated, “The state’s submission on finances is overwhelming and is rooted in hard evidence rather than in speculation.”

While the award is 82 pages long and deserves a though reading, we take particular note of the decision that affects FY 2010, in which no increase to salary is provided for any employee represented by the local. There is no increase in the salary guide and step increases are frozen at the prior year level.

Maybe the tide has turned on arbitration and this prompted the heated outpouring.  Time will tell.

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