WEST ORANGE, NJ — In the wake of the West Orange Fire Department and Mayor Robert Parisi coming to an agreement on a new contract proposal after working without one for more than a year, members of the West Orange Police Department (WOPD) have expressed frustration over the lack of an agreement of their own.

Officers came out in force during last week’s township council meeting to address the governing body and the community about some of their concerns surrounding the ongoing negotiation. According to Michael Cassidy and Chris Jacksic, presidents of the West Orange Policemen’s Benevolent Association (PBA Local 25) and the Superior Officers Association, respectively, the union members’ concerns center specifically on the current proposal’s lack of retirement health benefits for new hires.

“Since the start of negotiations, every offer from the township has demanded that we eliminate health benefits for future employees,” Jacksic said in his statement on Feb. 19, adding that the police department is standing firm on the position that retirement benefits must be included in the new contract.

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Despite Parisi’s explanation of several positive aspects that could result from eliminating these benefits for retirees, Jacksic, Cassidy and their fellow union members have argued that the disadvantages well outweigh the positives—including, but not limited to, making it more difficult to hire and retain quality police officers at a time when there is already a shortage of candidates. Further details of the mayor’s proposal can be seen by clicking HERE.

"Next council meeting, you will hear how much this will save the township beginning in the year 2049,” said Cassidy, referring to the mayor’s most recent proposal. “What you will not hear is how much it will cost. The biggest cost to the taxpayers is the ability to attract and retain the most qualified applicants to be police officers as the nationwide recruitment crisis continues."

Parisi declined to comment on certain details of the current negotiation—such as some of the costs associated with his proposal versus what the township is currently spending—but noted that he has met with the head of both police unions in the week since they spoke on this issue at the Feb. 19 council meeting.

“This is the third time I've negotiated contracts with the unions,” said Parisi. “It always takes time. There are a lot of issues involved and a lot of people to be up to date and to approve.

“I understand the fodder it makes on Facebook, but that's not really my concern; my concern is to do what is best for the taxpayers and the residences I represent, to do it as fairly and as appropriately possible, and to negotiate for the union employees who work hard for the town.”

Members of the two fire unions, FMBA Local 28 and SOA Local 228, have confirmed their agreement on a similar proposal, which is pending approval from their and the township’s legal departments as well as from the township council.

Under their recent agreement as currently proposed, “anyone hired after 2018 will not receive health benefits into retirement, but they will receive them on the job,” according to FMBA President Angelo Tedesco.  Read more about the agreement by clicking HERE.

Jacksic’s speech from last week’s township council meeting can be seen below, courtesy of the PBA Local 25 YouTube Channel: