On August 2, 2017 the New Jersey Supreme Court in In the Matter of County of Atlantic and In the Matter of the Township of Bridgeton, A-98/99/100, held that local governments must maintain pay increases during lapses in negotiated contracts when the contract language requires that the terms and conditions of the agreement remain in place until a successor agreement is reached. The Court strictly relied on contract interpretation in making its long-awaited decision.
The Court opined that if these contracts had not discussed the terms of the salary increments beyond the life of the contract, the issue before the Court would be more complex and its analysis likely would have considered past practices, custom, and the viability of the dynamic status quo doctrine. However, in this case, the Court determined that the parties’ binding written agreement expressly extended increment increases beyond the life of the contract.
In light of the Court’s decision, Boards of Education should consider negotiating clear language into their collective bargaining agreements expressly limiting negotiated increments solely to the life of the existing contract.
By: Kelli A Prinz, Esq.