Union Showdown: Amato rips DiVincenzo on incremental salary issue

Powerful Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo apparently doesn’t have to worry about a Democratic Primary opponent, but that doesn’t mean PBA Local 382 won’t refrain from criticizing the controversial Democrat in the strongest possible terms. 

PBA Local 382 President Joe Amato is angry at DiVincenzo for praising corrections officers who work at the county jail and touting the jail’s fiscal health, while refusing to pay what he said were agreed-upon contractual salary increments.

The local prez asked his entire 550 member local and their loved ones to personally contact the executive who last year personally endorsed Republican Gov. Chris Christie, and other county officials.

“To the executive, we are just numbers on a piece of paper that he thinks he can play with for his personal gain and opinion and I need our members to present a human face and a family unit to those numbers and our executive needs to be made to understand that these are peoples live he’s playing with,” Amato said.

Late in 2013 the county and Local 382 entered into contract negotiations, according to Amato, who sent DiVincenzo written notice that he and his members were fully aware of lean economic times and understood that the union’s requests in the upcoming contract negotiations would include items that present “little or no cost to the county and only asked that what was in the contract already, be retained.”

In that communication, Amato said he also pointed to the jail’s successes and the deserving officers who brought about those successes who Amato says are in the very least deserving and expect to retain what was already promised to them and agreed upon by all parties.  

Amato claims he received no response to his communication but was confident that he made his point.

“In those meetings and in any personal communication with the PBA or between PBA and county attorneys… no one from the county uttered a single word of its intent to arbitrarily break any prior agreements and withhold monies due to hundreds of correction officers and had the audacity to force the PBA to learn of this through jail/county rumor,” Amato said. “The secretive and slanted way it was done flies in the face of even a shred of decency on the county’s part and tramples on the very essence of what’s supposed to be transparent and good faith negotiation practices.”

But the local president stopped short of claiming to be too surprised, reminding members in bulletins of DiVincenzo’s past “self-centeredness and arrogance in past dealings with the PBA,” calling the executive someone “who seems to have regard only for himself and his own political aspirations with little to no regard for employees who he praises one minute when it suits his political needs and then attacks those same employees when it suits his political needs.”

DiVincenzo issued a statement in response to Amato’s criticism.

“According to a recent PERC decision, it was determined that governments did not have to pay their employees increments if their union contracts had expired,” DiVincenzo said. “Essex County is in a unique position because the contracts with all of our 26 unions ended in December 2013 and we are abiding with this PERC decision.

“Our workforce is comprised of 3,500 dedicated and hardworking employees who have made Essex County a model government and worked as a team Putting Essex County First,” the county executive added. “We continue to negotiate in good faith with our employees and guarantee they will receive their eligible increments based on the new contract.”