Court: N.J. towns can furlough workers without union talks.

By Ryah Huthins – Politico

Economic reasons are indisputably a legitimate basis for a layoff of any type.
New Jersey’s highest court ruled Tuesday that officials in three municipalities were within their rights to furlough workers at the height of the recession—even without consulting labor unions—because “economic reasons are indisputably a legitimate basis for a layoff of any type.”
The 4-1 decision by the state Supreme Court is a precedent-setting victory for public employers in New Jersey and was immediately condemned by labor leaders.

“There is no room for mandatory negotiation in the determination to reduce a workforce,” Jaynee LaVecchia, a centrist and the longest-serving justice on the court, wrote for the majority. “That is so because such decisions go to the heart of governmental policy determinations about what services are to be provided and how they will be provided to the public. Public managers must be the ones accountable to the people for such substantive policy decisions.”

In a fiery screed against his colleagues, Justice Barry Albin said the ruling erodes existing protections for union-represented workers and should not be taken lightly.

“The majority opinion sweeps away nearly fifty years of this Court’s public-sector labor jurisprudence, giving municipal employers the unilateral power to reduce the wages and hours of public employees promised in collective negotiations agreements,” Albin wrote in his descent. “Before today, the cardinal principle guiding public-sector labor negotiations had been that the wages and hours of public workers are subject to negotiation—not to a public employer’s fiat.” read more