The Brick Township council on Tuesday night unanimously voted in favor of approving new contracts with four employee bargaining units represented by three labor organizations.
The new pacts were negotiated between the municipal government and the Policemen’s Benevolent Association, the Transport Workers Union and two units of the Teamsters (crossing guards and supervisors). Negotiations lasted for months amidst inflation, a nationwide employment crisis and an uncertain economy, resulting in a mix of salary increases and some modifications to healthcare benefits.
Over the course of four years, each bargaining unit will see an increase in salary:
- PBA: Total 18 percent increase. (Year one: 6 percent; Year two: 5 percent; Year three: 4 percent; Year four: 3 percent.)
- Transport Workers Union: Total 22 percent increase. (Year one: 6 percent; Year two: 6 percent; Year three: 6 percent; Year four: 4 percent.)
- Teamsters/Crossing Guards: Total 18 percent increase. (Year one: 5 percent; Year two: 5 percent; Year three: 4 percent; Year four: 4 percent.)
- Teamsters/Supervisors: Total 22 percent increase. (Year one: 6 percent; Year two: 6 percent; Year three: 5 percent; Year four: 5 percent.)
The negotiations also produced some changes in contractual language. The PBA agreed to cap comp time, cap out of network chiropractic costs and agreed to waive the $4,000 stipend for those who do not participate in the health benefits plan. The TWU also agreed to cap out-of-network chiropractic costs and waive the stipend, as did the Teamsters unit representing supervisors. The Teamsters unit representing crossing guards agreed to have their holidays match those of the school district, as well as a modified schedule after the third year.
While larger than wage increases seen in previous contracts, the raises are generally in line with those negotiated by public employee unions in neighboring communities. The vote drew one comment during the lightly-attended council meeting.
“People with fixed incomes have no breathing room,” said resident John Sluca, opining that the township’s large senior citizen community may find it difficult to afford as potential property tax increase to support the higher salaries.
Officials praised the agreements, saying employees deserved salary increases to reflect the rate of inflation and a rising cost-0f-living.
“Our workforce is just like everybody else,” said Mayor John Ducey. “People are raising families, taking care of illnesses, and people are struggling to survive everywhere in the country right now with inflation and the cost of living – it’s out of control. During the first years when I was mayor, it seemed a bit easier – we weren’t dealing with all of the things we’re dealing with now.”
Ducey called the salary increases “the right thing to do.”
“Costs are going up, including salaries, and deservedly so,” he said.
“There was no doubt in our minds as to what you guys deserved,” said Council President Vincent Minichino, who abstained from the Teamsters vote due to his position as a trustee and professional agent with the union.
Officials thanked Joanne Bergin, the township’s business administrator, as well as CFO Maureen Laffey-Berg, for their work on hammering on the new agreements.
“It’s great to be able to come to an agreement and have this off everybody’s plate, because there always is tension when negotiations are going on, and you never know where things are going to fall,” said Ducey. “Having an agreement leads to peace here in the town. Our workers are awesome.”
Councilwoman Marianna Pontoriero said both officials and residents should keep pressure on the federal government to increase cost-of-living adjustments for those receiving Social Security income.
“I understand that when we talk about any increases, it is upsetting for those who are on a fixed income or otherwise unable to have an increase in income,” she said.