TRENTON — New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said Thursday the state reached a four-year, $34 million labor agreement with a public worker union that represents about 6,500 workers.

Murphy announced the deal with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees New Jersey Council 63 in a statement while he was in Boston for the same union's international convention.

It's the second public worker deal the Democratic governor has announced since taking over in January from Republican Chris Christie, who famously clashed with public labor groups throughout his two terms.
Murphy called the latest agreement "responsible and fair."

"This contract will provide fair wages, honor past increments that the prior administration refused to pay, and protect health care, among other benefits," Murphy said.

The deal covers 2015-2019 and includes two 2 percent across-the-board raises for the workers, who include nurses, corrections employees, and social workers.

The agreement also includes a provision for workers to be paid incremental increases if they were eligible to get them from July 2015 to when the new agreement takes effect.

Murphy reached a roughly $150 million deal with the biggest state workers union this year. That agreement with the roughly 35,000 workers of the Communication Workers of America also included two 2 percent raises.

The labor group's executive director, Steve Tully, said it's fair for workers and the public.

Murphy took office this year with help from organized labor, including the CWA and AFSCME. The CWA contributed $275,000 to a political action committee that spent money on ads attacking his Republican rival, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno. It also gave nearly $500,000 to county Democratic Party organizations that traditionally help get out the vote.

AFSCME contributed $4,300 directly to Murphy, according to the Election Law Enforcement Commission, and also organized a vote-drive effort on Murphy's behalf.

Murphy said cost of the contract is covered by the $37.4 billion budget that he and the Democrat-led Legislature recently agreed to.

Republicans are criticizing the deal, calling it a "backroom" agreement that will hurt taxpayers.

"Governor Murphy's spending habits are leaving New Jersey weaker and poorer," said New Jersey GOP chairman Doug Steinhardt said.

The cost that Murphy cited Thursday covers just the salary increases not base wages, according to Treasury spokeswoman Jennifer Sciortino.

The deal is subject to ratification by AFSCME members.

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