ATLANTIC CITY, NJ — Atlantic City firefighters will make it into the new year with their full pay.
The union filed for a stay on state-imposed 11.3 percent pay cuts that were set to begin Dec. 22.
Judge Julio Mendez on Monday ordered the state to show cause as to why he shouldn’t restrain them from taking action that includes “implementing a drastic 11.3 percent” salary reduction.
Argument is set for Jan. 10, when the two sides are due back in court.
The state must file their response, with the union given until Jan. 3 to respond.
Union President John Varallo claims the cuts are payback after the state lost its move to cut the department to 148 members. The state wanted to go as low at 125.
But Mendez ruled that anything below the 180 minimum the firefighters pushed for would endanger residents, workers and visitors.
“The fact is the city cannot afford the $3.8 million in additional costs that resulted from Judge Mendez’s decision requiring 180 firefighters even though the state and city believe 148 firefighters is sufficient to maintain public safety,” Department of Community Affairs spokeswoman Lisa Ryan told BreakingAC. “The state and city refuse to have taxpayers bear the burden of these costs caused by the fire union’s unceasing litigation.”
“No one ever bought into their 125 or 148,” Varallo said,.
The state has claimed the fire union alone has been unwilling to worth with them.
“Whereas other stakeholders such as city police officers and casino owners have worked to find compromise — in many cases reaching settlement agreements for the greater good of the city — the fire union’s posture has been one of confrontation from day one,” Ryan said. “Therefore, we will continue to work on the city’s behalf to return it to sound financial footing and stabilize property taxes even if that means reducing firefighters’ salaries.”
When Mendez first ruled for 180 in August, he said any trims to get there would have to come through retirements and attrition. But in October, he said the state could use layoffs, but not until Feb. 1.
That allows time for other plans — and a new administration in the statehouse.
“If you look at Chris Christie, his administration has trademarked retaliatory efforts,” Varallo said. “This is his (modus operandi).”
With layoffs delayed, the state took another tack.
“They basically said, Go to x amount of firefighters or we’re going to cut your pay,” Varallo said.