The state of New Jersey which was granted authority to take over the running of Atlantic City recently moved to unilaterally change union contracts for the city’s police officers .
The state’s plan cuts salaries, eliminates some benefits and changes the officers’ health care plan, according to letters sent to officers and city officials.
Matt Rogers, president of the Atlantic City police union, PBA Local 24, criticized the timing of the letter, which he said he received On March . Rogers said the PBA may take legal action.
“On the day of a state of emergency due to a storm, we were alerted we were going to be severely cut,” Rogers said. “It’s absolutely punitive.”
State spokeswoman Lisa Ryan said the letter was sent after the union stepped away from “reasonable and fair solutions” to the city’s budget crisis.
“The fact is that for every day changes aren’t made, it costs the city thousands of dollars,” she said.
The state is already in court over the changes to the firefighters’ contract. Superior Court Judge Julio Mendez still hasn’t issued a ruling on whether those cuts can proceed while a legal case against the state takeover advances.
It wasn’t immediately clear how much money the changes would save the city, which is hundreds of millions of dollars in debt. Similar contract changes proposed for city firefighters would save the city $14 million this year, according to the state.
“As you are aware, the City of Atlantic City is in severe financial distress,” Chiesa wrote. “Over the past two months, representatives of the director (of the Division of Local Government Services) and the City have tried to agree to modify the PBA contract in order to make it more affordable. Unfortunately, those efforts were not successful. The PBA leadership has been aware of the following changes since late December of 2016.”
The letters then list new salary guides for the officers, sergeants, lieutenants and captains. The state also wants to eliminate longevity, education and terminal leave benefits; adjust schedules to make officers work more hours; and change rules regarding overtime, sick leave and vacation time.
The changes amount to cuts in compensation of up to 25 percent, Rogers said. The new schedule would make patrol officers work 12-hour days, up from the current 10-hour shift, he said.
In addition, Rogers said the state eventually wants to cut the Police Department’s staff from 274 to 250.