NJ state troopers reject 1.25% salary increase, say they want better benefits
One of the unions representing lower ranking state troopers has turned down an arbitrator's award granting a 1.25 percent salary increase.
The State Troopers Fraternal Association rejected the Feb. 14 award granting the increase starting July 1 because an arbitrator “failed to show his work,” said Chris Burgos, president of STFA. The union members have been working without a contract since 2012.
The 1.25 percent pay increase would have also included an indefinite freeze on wages, Burgos said.
“We appealed the award in it’s entirety,” Burgos said. "(The arbitrator) basically froze everyone wherever they’re at until we have a new contract with the state, which could be in four years.”
In addition to the salary increase, the decision would have also eliminated state troopers' transportation allowance and education incentives. Burgos called the transportation allowance a “long-standing benefit taken away without explanation.”
Any trooper living more than 20 miles from their work station would receive a reimbursement for fuel and wear-and-tear costs. The state reimbursed 27 cents per mile for wear-and-tear costs, Burgos said.
“If you’re going to take something away, explain why,” Burgos said. “The state’s position was ‘We just want to take it away’ with no explanations.”
Burgos said the union would accept any deal that would reverse a trend of lower take-home earnings in the face of rising cost-of-living expenses.
"My net compensation is down 12 percent over the last six years with increased pension and health care contributions and increased out of pocket health care costs. This is not inclusive of CPI increases over that time," Burgos said.
The arbitrator found that the total base salary as of June 30, 2013, for the STFA, a union of 1,643 members, costs the state about $150.8 million. The starting salary for state troopers is $62,403, according to the New Jersey State Police website. The median salary for all enlisted troopers, including the top brass and the higher ranking officers who belong to a separate union, is $91,400, according to a New Jersey 101.5 analysis of pension records.
Attorneys for the state declined to comment on the proposals. The arbitrator has until July 14 to issue a new award or be penalized $1,000 a day by the Public Employment Relations Commission.