Subcontracting prohibition bill released

TRENTON  –  The Assembly Education Committee released bill A3627, which would prohibit school districts, county colleges and state colleges from entering into a subcontracting agreement in the middle of an existing collective bargaining agreement that would cause current employees to possibly lose their jobs.

According to the bill, an employer is permitted to enter into a subcontracting agreement, following the completion of a collective bargaining agreement, only if the employer:

Provides written notice to both the employees representatives in each collective bargaining unit and to the New Jersey Public Employment Relations Commission at least 90 days prior to any effort by the employer to seek the subcontracting agreement; and  offers the majority representative the opportunity to meet and discuss the decision to subcontract and negotiate over its impact.

The bill does not preclude the employer from subcontracting. With certain exceptions, the bill makes all actions of an employer regarding subcontracting mandatory subjects of negotiations. Failure to negotiate would subject the employer to an unfair labor practice charge by the majority representative.

Barbara Keshishian, of the New Jersey Education Association, called the bill a “common sense approach” to meeting the needs of the employers and employees.

“This bill protects both employers and employees,” she said.

But several groups, mostly representing colleges, opposed the bill, saying it would make subcontracting less available for districts to use as a cost-saving measure.

The New Jersey Association of State Colleges said it opposed broadening the scope of negotiations, adding that the bill could tie their hands when districts need to hire people in emergency situations.

But Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan pointed out the law currently allows exceptions for emergency situations.

Lynn Nowak of the New Jersey Council on County Colleges also said the bill would restrict good management practices that could result in increased tuition for students.

Andrew Musick of the N.J. Business and Industry Association echoed those remarks.

“We don’t want to drive good students out of New Jersey,” he said. “This bill has the potential of increasing tuition costs.”

Jonathan Kushman of the New Jersey School Boards Association also opposed the bill. “Subcontracting should remain a managerial prerogative to keep spending and property taxes under control,” he said.

But Diegnan, a lawyer, said from his personal experience, subcontracting has largely led to greater costs.

He again pointed out to opponents of the bill that it doesn’t prohibit privatization.

He said workers should have a say on how to reduce costs employers are seeking.

“Who know how to bring about economies than the people who do the job,” he said. “To me it’s commons sense. Sit down with the folks who’re doing the job.”

He said former Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca did just that when he sat down with union workers and helped save the then-faltering automaker in the 1980s.

Bus drivers, paraprofessionals and cafeteria workers at the hearing shared stories of how sudden privatization disrupted their lives because they lost their jobs.

With the bill, a 90-day notice would be provided.

Subcontracting prohibition bill released