The Corzine administration was close to striking a tentative contract deal with the largest state workers union Tuesday night that would raise the retirement age to 60 for new workers, force state employees to contribute to their health care for the first time and increase the amount workers must pay toward their own pensions.
Some local union leaders immediately balked at the terms, which were agreed to by national Communication Workers of America representatives but must be ratified by state union members.
“All parties came to the table, and this represents a true compromise the people of New Jersey can be proud of,” said a Corzine administration official who would not allow his name to be used because the deal was not final. “It will yield significant savings for the taxpayers and protect workers’ benefits.”
Two local CWA leaders _ Rae Roeder and Carla Katz _ who represent more than 21,000 workers said they would advise their members to vote ‘no’ on the deal.
“We’ll be urging our members to vote ‘no’ because this contract is a bad deal,” said Katz, president of CWA Local 1034. “Our members are willing to continue to fight against two-tier pensions and regressive health benefits cutbacks. We will not agree to a contract being settled on the backs of current or future workers.”
The deal, which was still being finalized late Tuesday night, comes as Gov. Jon S. Corzine prepares to give his annual budget address Thursday and some four months before the contract with 43,000 CWA employees expires.
If the deal is agreed to and approved, union workers would see salaries rise by 13 percent over four years. However, those workers would be required to contribute 1.5 percent of their annual salary to cover health care costs, and an extra half percent of their wages to their pensions, bringing their total pension contribution to 5.5 percent.
The deal would impose for the first time a cap on the total salary on which an employee can earn pension credits. That would eliminate situations where workers can amass huge retirement benefits by working multiple jobs or by working a lot of overtime.