YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: Gov. Christie’s health care “reforms” for public employees could be in trouble: A New Jersey appeals ruled today that the township of Saddle Brook violated its contract with PBA Local 102 by boosting co-pays for medical and prescription coverage for retirees.
In a single ruling, the appellate judges confirmed two June 8 awards by an arbitrator for the Public Employment Relations Commission, one to the union and the other to one of its members.
Just last week, the same court ordered East Rutherford to reimburse its police officers half of a $10 co-pay for doctor visits they were required to shell out in violation of a collective bargaining agreement. (SEE: East Rutherford must reimburse police for doubling co-pays).
As more of these suits come in, the results could give an indication of how the state’s second-highest court might view changes the Legislature made, at Christie’s demand, to public employee health and pension benefits last month.
Today, the panel upheld an arbitrator’s finding that Saddle Brook “violated the contract when it decreased retirees[‘] medical coverage by increasing retiree co[-]payments for medical and prescription coverage and when its new insurance carrier required retirees to enroll in (and pay for) Medicare Part B, making the Horizon plan secondary coverage.”
The judges affirmed an order to reimburse the increased co-pays and Medicare Part B payments paid by the retirees “retroactive to the date the grievance was filed, and to continue to so reimburse retirees for such payments in the future.”
They also sustained an individual grievance by disabled Saddle Brook Police Officer Charles Galbo to be eligible for full medical benefits.
A state Superior Court judge had already upheld the arbitrator’s award to Local 102 as “rational, justified, and based upon substantial evidence,” and to Galbo as “appropriate and not barred by the terms of the collective bargaining agreement.” But the township appealed both decisions — and lost.
“There is no ground in law to upset the arbitrator’s decision on either matter,” the appeals judges wrote in today’s decision.
They referred to similar judgments in cases involving the New Jersey Turnpike Authority (v. Local 196) and New Jersey Transit (v. Amalgamated Transit Union).