Saying the bill could actually serve to deter wage and benefit concessions, Gov. Chris Christie today conditionally vetoed a bill that would require any savings from union concessions be used to avoid teacher layoffs.
“While I commend the sponsors for attempting to facilitate the preservation of school employee positions during this difficult economic time, I am concerned that this bill, as currently written, goes well beyond the situation which the sponsors were attempting to address. Unlike the situation facing the State which prompted this legislation, this bill is not limited to a one-year concession in the middle of a collective bargaining agreement for the sole purpose of preventing layoffs due to a fiscal crisis,” said Christie. “I am also concerned that this bill will produce several other adverse consequences. For example, this bill could be interpreted to require school boards to negotiate with collective bargaining units any time the district looks to reduce staff, even when the district has identified a justifiable need to do so for non-economic reasons, such as decreased student enrollment.”
The bill passed in both houses of the legislature with bi-partisan support and sought to remedy what sponsors felt was the unfair elimination of teachers’ jobs even after unions had voted on salary concessions.
Christie said as written, the bill could actually encourage legal disputes and discourage the types of concessions needed to avoid layoffs.
“School employees who admirably choose to make a sacrifice should feel assured that any savings achieved through their concessions will only be used for the agreed-upon purpose of maintaining other positions,” Christie said.
Last year, Christie urged voters to oppose the school budget in any district where teachers failed to accept a one-year wage freeze. The governor blamed the teachers’ union when thousands of teachers were laid off statewide last year, saying the union could have saved the jobs had it supported the wage freezes.
In total, 45 school districts negotiated teacher wage freezes for the 2010-11 school year. An additional 100 districts have yet to conclude negotiations on their contracts.