Local 1085 has filed unfair labor practice charges with PERC complaining that Gloucester County illegally refused to negotiate with the union before adopting a policy that requires all County employees to sign up for direct deposit of their biweekly pay. The charges were filed by Local President Rich Dann on September 3.
The County Freeholder Board adopted a resolution on May 21 requiring that “commencing July 1, 2014, all County employees will be compensated by direct deposit only.” As a result, the Treasurer’s Office is no longer issuing actual paychecks and is requiring employees to go online in order to obtain pay stubs.
The union initially filed a grievance, but decided to take the matter to PERC after the grievance was denied by the County's hearing officer.
Although a majority of County employees already had direct deposit, some did not want their pay going directly into a bank account and would have preferred to continue receiving a regular paycheck. Employees who do not have convenient access to the internet (or to a printer) have also found it more difficult to get their pay statements.
The County’s action was based on legislation enacted last year which requires direct deposit for state employees and allows local governments to make direct deposit mandatory for their employees as well. The law, known as P.L. 2013, c. 28, states that “on or after July 1, 2014, the governing body of a county or municipality may determine by the adoption of an ordinance or resolution, as appropriate, to provide for the mandatory direct deposit of net pay for all employees . . . .” The law allows the governing body to grant exemptions “on such terms and conditions as the governing body may deem necessary.”
According to President Dann, the County violated the New Jersey Employer-Employee Relations Act by changing union members’ terms and conditions of employment without negotiation. The method of pay—including direct deposit—has always been a negotiable subject under this law. Although P.L. 2013, c. 28 allows the County to make direct deposit mandatory for employees, it does not require the County to do so. Accordingly, the new law does not pre-empt negotiations over the decision to require direct deposit. This conclusion is based squarely on past decisions by PERC as well as decisions by the New Jersey Supreme Court.
Dann said that management's obligation to negotiate in good faith with the union is an important legal protection for employees and that Local 1085 could not permit such a blatant violation to go unchallenged.