The New Jersey Turnpike Authority has scheduled a public hearing Tuesday on a plan to privatize toll collectors on the New Jersey Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway. The Christie administration contends it could save a significant amount of money, but the unions representing toll collectors disagree.

NJ Turnpike
NJ Turnpike (Mario Tama, Getty Images)

Last year, the turnpike authority, which operates both roads, said it would seek proposals to privatize E-ZPass and cash toll collections in 2016.

"The salaries of full-time toll takers have already been cut about 25 percent and we have workers on the toll roads in New Jersey that currently are part-time workers making $12 an hour, with no benefits and no pension," said Paul Shearon, the secretary-treasurer of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers in Washington D.C. "In privatizing them (the jobs) we don't believe there will be a savings."

The Bridgegate scandal is another reason the unions feel privatization isn't a good idea.

"We believe it would be a terrible risk in light of the situation that happened on the George Washington Bridge and the city of Fort Lee to bring in a private company that would be beholden to the Governor of New Jersey. If the people who receive that contract are beholden, in fact to the governor, and not the people of New Jersey, then I think that creates a dangerous situation," Shearon said.

The unions said they are willing to discuss the situation with the turnpike authority in hopes of coming up with reasonable solutions for both sides.  In 2011, toll takers agreed to a 25 percent cut in salary to avoid privatization.  At the time, toll takers were making about $65,000 a year.

Claiming they have sacrificed enough, the unions have been staging protests at the turnpike authority's headquarters in Woodbridge.

Tom Feeney, a spokesman for the turnpike authority, declined repeated telephone and email requests by Townsquare Media to discuss the situation, but told The Atlantic City Press that outsourcing jobs "could produce significant savings without compromising quality in any way."

Currently there are 200 toll collectors on the turnpike and 136 on the parkway.


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