Barnegat Leader

Barnegat PBA, Township Committee Strike a Deal

Oct 18, 2017

After working without a new contract for four years, PBA Local 296 reached a seven-year agreement with Barnegat Township in which officers will receive 1.95 percent annual pay increases.

According to the contract, announced last week, the pay raises are retroactive to January 2014, and all outstanding pay is due officers by October 2018. The contract will expire at the end of 2021.

Patrolman Chris Ebert, PBA state delegate and part of the negotiating team, said the pay raises are the same as a contract for the Superior Officers Association hammered out nearly four years ago.

“It was a long, drawn-out process,” said Ebert. “We’re happy to finally come to a resolution and bring this chapter to a close. Four years is a long time to be out of contract, and it leads to low morale and a poor attitude toward the job. With that, I’m proud of our members who withstood the negativity and continued to do a great job every day. Also, I want to thank the rest of our PBA negotiating team who put in a lot of time and effort over the last four years to secure a fair contract for both sides.”

The tone was in sharp contrast to last December, when officers showed up en masse to protest a lack of progress. Both parties accused each other of dragging their feet in negotiations.

In May, the township was hopeful to get an agreement done, but still felt that the PBA demand of 1.95 percent raises was not economically feasible.

“However, our economic situation has changed for the better,” said Township Committeeman Alfonso Cirulli. “Overtime costs have gone way down, and we have structured the department to where we don’t have a captain, so that saves us a lot in salary. I think the key was that even though there was a lot of negativity, both sides really wanted to get a deal done.”

He said that as the contract was entering the home stretch, much of the negotiating involved Township Administrator Martin Lisella and PBA President Jim Purcell, who had just recently been appointed head of the bargaining unit.

“It was just a matter of sitting down and working out the numbers,” said Lisella. “Both of us really wanted to get this resolved.”

Purcell said a new feature of the contract would be that patrol officers who have accrued 20 years of service would have their salary increased to that of a first-year detective, a raise of approximately 10 percent.

“But most patrol officers who have reached the 20-year mark are often at the point where they will be promoted to sergeant or detective,” he said.

Ebert said that at one point earlier in the year, the PBA was looking at going to arbitration, when the two sides hand over their power to a third party that will decide the dispute. The process serves as an alternative to litigation.

“If we had done that, the most we could have received was a five -year contract,” he said. “Then we would have had to start up negotiations again real soon. This gives us a little breathing room.”

Purcell could not be reached for comment.

— Eric Englund

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